Pharma, Startups

Much like Biogen, Novoron developing drug to restore myelin sheaths in multiple sclerosis

Biogen is taking a similar approach as Novoron Biosciences in studying remyelination to improve multiple sclerosis.

A promising new approach to treating multiple sclerosis is remyelination: That is, replenishing the fatty sheath surrounding nerve cells that degenerate in this autoimmune disease.

Biogen is testing a drug that can restore the myelin sheaths, but San Diego startup Novoron Bioscience is also making headway in this effort to remyelinate the nerve cells.

It just landed a $680,000 SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand its preclinical work over the course of two years.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Multiple sclerosis worsens as the body’s nerve cells deconstruct. Novoron’s lead compound, NOVO-117, targets a molecule called RhoA that has been found to inhibit the body’s natural remyelination process using oligodendrocyte precursor cells. The startup’s idea is to help excite nerve regeneration.

While the most recent funding is to push forward the drug’s application in multiple sclerosis, the company is also pursuing related therapeutics for glaucoma and spinal cord injury.

[Image courtesy of Flickr user LeeAnder]