Cambridge NeuroScience Inc. (CNS) announced Tuesday that ithas received a $500,000 small business innovation researchgrant (SBIR) from the National Institutes of Health to developchannel blockers as therapeutics to limit brain damage causedby low blood flow.

"We have a 100 percent hit rate," said Philip Holberton, chieffinancial officer. "All six of our Phase II grant applications havebeen approved, while the people at NIH tell us the average hitrate is around 35 percent."

The Cambridge, Mass., company spends $8 million to $10million annually on research and development, Holberton said.Although the grants cover just a fraction of this expense,second-phase funding signifies that a research program hascommercial promise.

Another product subject to a Phase II SBIR grant, Cerestat,recently entered Phase Ib trials in the U.S. This NMDA (N-Methyl-D-Aspartate) ion-channel blocker protects braindamage in patients with stroke.

The grant announced Tuesday "builds upon and complements"discovery of Cerestat, said Robert McBurney, vice president.

The company will look for novel compounds to block calciumand sodium channels, which control release of theneurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate is released in excess innerve cells starved of oxygen, which in turn stimulates thosenerve cells to take up calcium, leading to cell death andincreased release glutamate in a brain-damaging cascade.

Protective compounds may help reduce the risk of braindamage following stroke, head injury and such heart operationsas bypass surgery or angioplasty, Holberton said.

He said he thinks the company is "equal or ahead of the pack"with its clinical trials in stroke and head trauma, butsomewhere in the middle in developing glutamate releaseblockers.

CNS has also received funding to explore the human equivalentof killer genes in the roundworm that bears on the life-and-death cycle of nerve cells, medicines based on spider venom totreat neurological disorders, improved safety profiles of anti-psychotic medications, neuroprotective drugs and the NMDAreceptor.

The company's stock (NASDAQ:CNSI) closed unchanged Tuesdayat $7.25 a share.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

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