InterveXion Therapeutics, a startup spawned from UAMS research, has received $14.5 million to further its research and production.
A company that has been incubating in UAMS’ Bioventures startup facility, InterveXion Therapeutics has been researching therapies to help methamphetamine drug abusers break their addictions.
The therapies are designed to reduce or prevent the “euphoric rush” that drug users crave by keeping methamphetamine in the bloodstream and out of the brain, where the drug exerts its most powerful effects.
InterveXion’s research has centered on an antibody to block the stimulation of the drug. Potentially, it can help drug users break their addictions thereby improving worker productivity and reducing crime and health problems tied to drug abuse.
The $14.5 million comes in the form of two grants from the federal government. One grant for $9.55 million comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $5 million was received from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
The larger grant will support research that will determine whether a methamphetamine vaccine may be safely advanced into a clinical trial with human participants. The vaccine is a promising new strategy that could stimulate a patient’s own immune system to generate long-acting, protective anti‑methamphetamine antibodies.
The other grant of $5 million over three years will support production of the anti-methamphetamine monoclonal antibody that has been successfully tested in a first clinical study of healthy adults.
The grant will also fund more research to show that the antibody is safe for methamphetamine users. The additional study will prepare researchers for the next clinical trial involving methamphetamine-using participants.
According to InterveXion, the antibody has an immediate impact on the user and is effective for about a month. The vaccine takes several weeks to become effective, and it may blunt methamphetamine’s effects for nine months or longer.
“These grants represent NIDA’s commitment to addressing methamphetamine abuse with promising therapies such as the monoclonal antibody and vaccine,” said UAMS’ Mike Owens, Ph.D., who developed both the vaccine and the antibody and has received NIDA funding since the mid-1980s.
“Our team demonstrated the safety of the monoclonal antibody in a clinical trial completed last year, and we look forward to the next phases of research with both the antibody and the vaccine,” he said.
Owens is co-program director and co-principal investigator on the vaccine grant. He is a professor and director of the UAMS Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse and InterveXion’s chief science officer.
W. Brooks Gentry, M.D., is co-program director and co-principal investigator on the monoclonal antibody grant. He is a professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology in the UAMS College of Medicine and InterveXion’s chief medical officer.
Misty Stevens, Ph.D., M.B.A., is operations director for InterveXion and is co-program director and co-principal investigator for both grants. Ralph Henry, Ph.D., is vice president for biopharmaceutics at InterveXion and a co-investigator on both grants.
Assuming the antibody and vaccine receive federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, they can be provided as an integral part of a methamphetamine user’s complete treatment program, which consists of counseling and possibly other medications to reduce craving.
InterveXion is a pharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover and advance innovative medications that reduce the impact of human suffering on individuals and communities.