Robert Fildes, former president and chief executive officer ofCetus Corp., has agreed to become chairman and CEO ofNeurotherapeutics Corp., a San Diego start-up being puttogether by Paul Marangos, former senior director of researchat Gensia Pharmaceuticals Inc.

"I've finally found something interesting enough to tear meaway from my golf game," said Fildes, who left Cetus lastAugust.

Neurotherapeutics is targeting stroke and head injuries. Muchof the damage caused by these traumas arises from a three- tofour-day process in which the body overproduces excitatoryamino acid neurotransmitters (EAAs). These EAAsoverstimulate nerve cells, literally exciting them to death.

Calcium is a key component of the process. Excited cells takeup calcium, which builds up in nerve cells. "Calcium is thefinal assassin of the nerve cells," said Marangos. There are nodrug treatments.

Most companies looking at this process, such as Merck, Ciba-Geigy and Cambridge NeuroScience Inc., aim to block the EAAreceptors on the nerve cells.

"We don't want to do that," said Marangos. There are four orfive receptor subtypes, all of which must be blocked to get themaximum benefit. In addition, some of the blockers have toxicside effects.

Instead, Neurotherapeutics is looking to an earlier stage of theprocess, hoping to block the release of EAAs from nerve andglial cells. Glial cells are a type of brain cell.

"We have compounds that can close the doors to the stablebefore the horses get out," said Marangos.

The company is also developing compounds that can decreaselevels of calcium inside nerve cells.

Neurotherapeutics also received a patent in February for amethod to inhibit the toxic side effects of the EAA receptorblockers that others are working on.

Neurotherapeutics isn't really a biotechnology company, saidMarangos, but it does intend to use knowledge gained throughbiotechnology to design small molecules. "A lot of people havetried to employ biotech as an end in itself," he said. "We wantto take the knowledge gained from the biotech revolution -- inour case certain ion channels -- and use that knowledge torationally design new drugs."

Neurotherapeutics aims to be a development-oriented company,not a research boutique, said Marangos, who left Gensia lastOctober. "In some respects we're quite a bit closer to productthan some companies that have been around a few years," hesaid. Several of the company's compounds have already beentested in animals, and Neurotherapeutics expects to fileinvestigational new drug applications with the Food and DrugAdministration within two to three years.

Fildes is seeking a $2 million seed round from venturecapitalists. That money is projected to last 18 months.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.