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Atrial Fibrillation Agents: Better Drugs For The Arrhythmic Heart

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

Improvements in targeting the sources of aberrant cardiac rhythms may open the heart up to new therapies. In this issue, we profile four start-ups focused on developing treatments for AF and other arrhythimas: Acesion Pharma, ChanRx, Milestone Pharmaceuticals and Serodus.

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ChanRx Corp.

Like many a start-up before it, ChanRx Corp. aims to repurpose a compound discovered by others for a new use. Unlike most repurposing efforts, however, this compound, called vanoxerine, has never actually been approved as a drug. Although it has thrice been taken into Phase I trials that yielded acceptable safety data, the compound showed no efficacy for treatment of Parkinson’s disease, depression or cocaine addiction. Noting that vanoxerine could influence muscle that beats rapidly, the start-up is developing it as an oral treatment for atrial fibrillation.

Acesion Pharma APS

Denmark’s Acesion Pharma AS’ co-founders Ulrik Sørensen, now serving as CEO, and Morten Grunnet, the start-up’s CSO, both worked for over a decade at NeuroSearch AS on a target and compounds that could yield a new treatment for AF. The target is a type of calcium-activated potassium channel classified as the SK channel. Although many kinds of ion channels have been pursued as targets of AF drugs, this particular channel is novel as a drug target and no drugs have been developed against it.

Milestone Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Milestone Pharmaceuticals Inc. is developing a short-acting calcium channel blocker to treat a heart arrhythmia called paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. PSVT usually isn’t life-threatening and typically resolves on its own, but it is alarming and often leads patients to the emergency room. Milestone envisions that its drug will be used at home as episodes arise. It has a half-life of just one to four minutes and is delivered intranasally to get to the heart quickly.

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