LANDOVER, Md.—The Epilepsy Foundation is developing a drug discovery platform for genetic forms of epilepsy in collaboration with Intellimedix and Pfizer Inc. The platform may help create individualized and potential new treatments for people living with Dravet syndrome, a very severe type of genetic epilepsy, and other types of epilepsy for which limited treatment options are currently available. Intellimedix was launched in April 2012 by two parents (Daniel Fischer and Jim Jacoby) of girls suffering from Dravet syndrome, a type of monogenic epilepsy primarily caused by mutations in the SCN1A gene, with the original purpose of finding more effective treatments for the condition. This initial program will also serve as proof of principle of the company’s integrated approach.
“This collaboration has the potential to benefit all individuals and families living with epilepsy, especially the one-third of people with epilepsy who live with uncontrolled seizures despite all currently available therapies,” said Philip M. Gattone, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation. “With this drug discovery platform and our new collaboration, the foundation furthers its mission to unify the epilepsy community and embrace innovation in new therapies.”
“We are excited to be part of this collaboration because we believe that future therapies will be more tailored to an individual’s needs,” said Ruth McKernan, head of Neusentis, Pfizer’s research unit for pain and sensory disorders. “Collaborating with organizations like the Epilepsy Foundation is so important because they bring us closer to patients.”
“We are thrilled by this collaboration that aims to develop and apply novel drug screening technologies to deliver personalized therapies to patients with epilepsy,” said Daniel Fischer, president and CEO of Intellimedix. “We will strive to significantly improve the lives of patients with Dravet syndrome in the very short term.” Fischer explains that the Epilepsy Foundation will provide scientific expertise as well as bringing the patient perspective into the picture. “We will be working with patients from Dr. Linda Laux and Dr. Orrin Devinsky from Chicago Lurie Children’s Hospital and the NYU Langone Center, respectively,” Fischer notes. “Pfizer will be providing their induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) harvesting and screening capabilities and infrastructure through their Neusentis unit in Cambridge, U.K. Intellimedix will perform gene sequencing and systems biology analysis, personalized zebrafish line development and zebrafish drug screening. The study will try to correlate results from patient genomic and phenotypic data, computational modeling, iPSC screening and personalized zebrafish screening.”
“As we aim at building a complete platform for personalized medicine, a type of genetic epilepsy, i.e., Dravet syndrome, seemed like a good target and proof of concept,” Fischer adds. “As we built the partnership to tackle this challenge, we looked for partners that would have a shared interest in Dravet/epilepsy and personalized medicine and would bring to the table all the components of the personalized drug screening platform plus compounds that could potentially be interesting for screening (e.g., sodium channel modulators).”
Epilepsy is a chronic neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures. According to the CDC, epilepsy affects between 2.2 million and 3 million people in the United States and, despite the availability of multiple antiseizure drugs, one-third of people with epilepsy still live with uncontrolled seizures. Dravet Syndrome is a severe form of epilepsy for which no effective treatments exist.
Intellimedix develops and applies state-of-the-art technologies to improve disease diagnostics, accelerate drug discovery and personalize medicine. The company has developed and aggregated state-of-the-art technologies into a high-throughput precision drug-screening pipeline. Through this pipeline, Intellimedix aims at accelerating the discovery of novel compounds and repurposing of existing FDA-approved drugs by addressing well-defined genetic and molecular targets known to cause or affect diseases.
The Epilepsy Foundation, a national non-profit with 48 affiliated organizations throughout the United States, has led the fight against seizures since 1968. The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to stop seizures and sudden unexpected death in epilepsy, find a cure and overcome the challenges created by epilepsy through efforts including education, advocacy and research to accelerate ideas into therapies. The foundation works to ensure that people with seizures have the opportunity to live their lives to their fullest potential.