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ChanRx to use $250K investment to reformulate a-fib drug

Updated 2:47 p.m., Aug. 5, 2010. Two-year-old drug development company ChanRx has received a $250,000 investment commitment from JumpStart Ventures, the investment arm of Northeast Ohio venture developer JumpStart Inc. ChanRx was spun off by ChanTest Corp. in Garfield Heights, Ohio, to develop small-molecule drugs — specifically, Vanoxerine — to treat atrial fibrillation, an increasingly […]

Updated 2:47 p.m., Aug. 5, 2010.

Two-year-old drug development company ChanRx has received a $250,000 investment commitment from JumpStart Ventures, the investment arm of Northeast Ohio venture developer JumpStart Inc.

ChanRx was spun off by ChanTest Corp. in Garfield Heights, Ohio, to develop small-molecule drugs — specifically, Vanoxerine — to treat atrial fibrillation, an increasingly common arrhythmia that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

ChanRx will use the JumpStart investment to complete development of an intravenous formulation of Vanoxerine, its anti-arrhythmia drug that in its oral form demonstrated an ability to restore normal heart rhythm in a human clinical study. The study also showed Vanoxerine was safer than other atrial fibrillation drugs on the market or in development.

“Drug therapy is the mainstay of treatment for this condition; unfortunately, the drugs used today have delivered unsatisfactory efficacy and undesirable safety profiles, including links to potentially lethal arrhythmias, Arthur “Buzz” Brown, ChanRx founder, and founder and CEO of ChanTest, said in a JumpStart release.

“ChanRx’s pharmaceutical compound has demonstrated a superior safety profile in six previously conducted Phase 1 human clinical trials,” Brown said. “We also showed in a Phase 2a trial that oral Vanoxerine is effective in restoration of normal cardiac rhythm.”

An intravenous formulation of the drug would enable quicker absorption and efficacy, compared to the oral form. That could cut the time patients spend in emergency rooms and the cost to treat them, Brown said.

JumpStart Ventures partner Kevin Mendelsohn will invest development assistance in ChanRx. The financial and developmental investments “provide us with the resources and assistance we need to accelerate that process” of reformulation, Brown said.

Brown and his colleagues at ChanTest uncovered the promise of Vanoxerine as an atrial fibrillation drug while testing the drug for a development partner. ChanTest uses a catalog of cell lines to produce ion channels — the membrane proteins responsible for the electrical activity of all cells — to help drug companies figure out what drugs to make and whether those drugs are safe and effective.

“This was a repurposing project,” Brown said, because Vanoxerine had failed to effectively treat three different conditions. “We knew it was safe in man. When we tested it, we found it had an attractive profile for treating atrial fibrillation,” he said.

ChanRx has been developing Vanoxerine for two indications:  for use in emergency departments — where the intravenous drug could quickly terminate atrial fibrillation — and as a pill that patients could use to maintain normal heart rhythms.

Brown believes the termination market for such a drug is about $800 million a year, and the maintenance market, at least $1 billion a year. “In either case, we need much more extensive testing,” he said. And that will cost many millions of dollars.

So far, parent ChanTest and a minority owner — the developer that brought the drug to the Garfield Heights company in the first place — have spent millions of dollars developing, testing and protecting the drug. Small Business Innovation Research grants have helped.

In addition to the JumpStart investment, ChanRx is looking for several million dollars to get its drug through clinical trials, Brown said. It likely would take a partnership with a big pharmaceutical company to launch the drug, he said.