OKYO Pharma Limited (LON:OKYO) said Dr Napoleone Ferrara, an award-winning scientist who helped invent two blockbuster drugs, has joined its scientific advisory board.
Ferrara, currently a professor at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, made pivotal contributions to the discovery of cancer drug Avastin and Lucentis, for an eye condition called macular degeneration. Last year the two products netted sales of more than US$9bn worldwide.
A highly decorated researcher, Ferrara, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has won the coveted Lasker Award and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.
“Very few scientists have invented two different blockbuster drugs such as Avastin and Lucentis,” said OKYO chairman Willy Simon.
“Lucentis has been one of the major blockbuster drugs to treat eye disease and Napoleone’s experience will be of huge value to OKYO’s drug development effort.”
OKYO’s lead drug candidate, phase I-ready OK-113, is being developed to treat dry eye.
It has been designed to inhibit Chemerin, one of a key group of cell surface receptors called G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), which play an important role in inflammation and were the basis of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Ferrara said he was “delighted” to be joining the OKYO scientific advisory board, adding: “The focus of OKYO on the development of long-acting GPCR agonists to treat dry eye and ocular pain is scientifically sound and promising.
“GPCRs are key targets for pharmacological intervention in a variety of diseases. My expertise in ocular angiogenesis should complement these efforts and I look forward to an exciting collaboration.”
OK-113 is due to enter phase I clinical trials in 20-30 patients in the first quarter of next year.
This follows successful animal studies and side-by-side tests against Restatis, where it compared well, with no local irritation caused, unlike its rival.
OKYO has a twin focus. As well as a drug for dry eye, it is bringing through a non-opioid pain relief treatment.
BAM8-22 is a peptide was shown in animal studies to block both inflammatory and neuropathic pain after nerve injury, suggesting it may be one of a class of non-opioid analgesics for treating chronic pain with minimal side effects.