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Solace Pharmaceuticals Inc.

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

Solace Pharmaceuticals Inc. is pursuing identification and development of novel pain compounds based on the scientific work of its pedigreed founders. Launched just a little over a year ago, Solace has already taken its first steps for a Phase IIa proof-of-concept trial in neuropathic pain for its lead compound.

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New Approaches to Neuropathic Pain

In some ways, neuropathic pain seems an odd choice of focus for a small start-up. It comes in many forms and its mechanisms are poorly understood. Moreover, the size and strength of those with stakes in the pain market might be another reason for emerging companies to steer clear. Fortunately, they're not. The unmet need is huge: Only one in two patients actually get some relief from existing drugs, in part because their mechanisms of action are fairly generalized. There remains plenty to be done in identifying and understanding the precise mechanisms behind the various flavors of neuropathic pain. For those whocan figure out new approaches to pain or new uses in pain for failed or overlooked compounds -- the companies profiled in this issue are doing both -- there's a big reward at the end: Sales of neuropathic pain therapies in the seven major pharmaceutical markets reached nearly $5 billion in 2007.

Spinifex Pharmaceuticals Pty. Ltd.

Australia's Spinifex Pharmaceuticals has identified a compound that it believes represents an entirely new mechanism of action for neuropathic pain. Its lead agent is a G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) antagonist, in Phase I trials for post-herpetic neuralgia. Although the GPCR class is one of the most popular drug targets across the industry, Spinifex claims that the GPCR it's focused on is not commonly associated with pain research.

Aestus Therapeutics Inc.

Aestus Therapeutics is using its bioinformatics platform to hunt down previously unsuspected associations between validated drug targets and neurological disease, to seek out compounds relevant to that target; ideally candidates that got as far as Phase II. The company claims to have identified half a dozen pathways not previously linked to neuropathic pain-such as the glycolysis pathway.

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