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Recent Drug Development News – R&D Partners

In the life sciences field, groundbreaking developments in drug discovery continually reshape the landscape of medical advancements. That fact is evidenced in some recent positive strides in pharmaceutical research.

As scientists push the boundaries of knowledge, the pursuit of safer, more effective treatments takes center stage. Marking a pivotal moment in the ever-evolving field of drug development, there have been promising breakthroughs unveiled towards the end of 2023.

In this article, we discuss the latest news in this field, exploring innovative approaches, novel compounds, and the potential impact they may have on revolutionizing healthcare and improving patient outcomes.

Novel pain medication reduces side effects

Researchers at MedUni Vienna have had a breakthrough while leading an international study, developing an opioid-like molecule that has effectively reduced pain in animal models. It has fewer undesirable side effects compared to traditional opioids, which are often required for chronic pain. They can lead to serious consequences like drug dependence and respiratory depression, which is why the study focused on finding alternative pain remedies targeting the κ-opioid receptor, associated with pain regulation.

Using a computer-assisted ‘de novo’ design method, researchers generated compounds targeting G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR), vital for drug development. Only four compounds were synthesized and experimentally validated, leading to the identification of a promising drug-like molecule called DNCP-β-NalA(1). This opioid-like compound demonstrated strong pain relief in animal models, without triggering unwanted symptoms like sedation or dysphoria.

The study marks a significant advancement in drug discovery, offering a novel workflow for developing painkillers with improved tolerability and reduced side effects. The ‘de novo’ design process, applied to GPCRs, holds promise for developing drugs with fewer side effects in various therapeutic areas, including cardiovascular, metabolic, and mental diseases.

Further studies are required to confirm the potential of the discovered molecules as pain therapeutics. Overall, this research presents a significant step toward safer and more effective pain management strategies.


Novel medication repairs bacterial-induced leakage


Researchers at Duke University have utilized a protein-based microscopic syringe employed by bacteria to inject virulent proteins into plant cells, causing diseases that harm crops. After 25 years of eluding scientists, the structure and function of a significant family of these virulent proteins were uncovered, including Avirulence protein E (AvrE) and its counterparts.

Despite AvrE’s toxicity to various cell types, the team employed machine learning, specifically AlphaFold2, to decipher its structure. The predicted hollow barrel shape suggested a transport channel function for ions and water. Testing in frog eggs confirmed these channels’ ability to transport ions and water, with a diameter of 15 to 20 angströms. The team speculated that bacteria use these channels to source water and nutrients from plant cells, facilitating their growth in the leaf’s dry airspace.

Polyamidoamine G1, a polymer wider than the channel diameter, effectively blocked the channel in frog eggs and prevented disease in plants caused by pathogens Erwinia amylovora and Pseudomonas syringae. The drug inhibited disease symptoms, including fire blight on pears and leaf spots on Arabidopsis thaliana. Intriguingly, the drug didn’t hinder bacterial growth in the lab, suggesting it limits virulence rather than acting as an antibiotic.

Future research will focus on determining how the drug blocks the channel by resolving its structure bound to one of the proteins. The findings open avenues for developing compounds to safeguard plants against bacterial diseases, potentially revolutionizing crop protection strategies.


Larsucosterol shows promise as groundbreaking therapy for alcoholic hepatitis treatment


DURECT, led by CEO James Brown, may have found a groundbreaking solution in the treatment of alcoholic hepatitis, using the cholesterol-derived molecule larsucosterol.

Alcoholic hepatitis, most often associated with middle-aged men, affects a surprising one-third of female patients in the United States. The incidence of this severe liver inflammation is also rising among people in their twenties and thirties. Despite being typically linked to heavy, prolonged alcohol consumption, the disease can manifest in moderate drinkers, with women facing a higher risk even at moderate levels. Unfortunately, due to late-stage symptom presentation, 30% of diagnosed patients succumb within 90 days, and 25% within a month, with no available treatment.

The larsucosterol drug, originally discovered by biochemist Shunlin Ren and later investigated by DURECT, acts as an epigenetic regulator, modifying the DNA methyltransferases involved in gene expression. Promising results from a Phase 2a clinical trial treating alcoholic hepatitis patients have spurred a Phase 2b study. In the trial, larsucosterol demonstrated safety and efficacy, prompting early patient discharge, improved bilirubin levels, and positive scores predicting survival chances.

Encouragingly, all patients in the trial survived the 28-day study period, showcasing the potential life-saving impact of larsucosterol. With Phase 2b results currently under evaluation, DURECT aims to explore the drug’s effectiveness in treating other acute and chronic conditions. The future of larsucosterol, as a potential therapy for alcoholic hepatitis, holds promise, offering a glimmer of hope for a disease often deemed incurable.


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