Thursday, May 24, 2007

Airmid Licensed to Develop Candidate Drugs

May 23, 2007

Two exclusive licensing agreements to commercialize potential treatments for multiple sclerosis and psoriasis have just been completed by UC Davis InnovationAccess and Airmid Inc., a startup company based in Redwood City, Calif.

The agreements cover patents held by UC Davis and UC Irvine on two novel compounds that could be used to treat autoimmune diseases, in which the body's own immune system attacks healthy tissue. The agreements allow Airmid to pursue further testing and commercial development of the compounds.

"Airmid is the latest of the startup companies emerging from the UC campuses -- in this case from both UC Davis and UC Irvine. I'm delighted we've concluded this license with the company, and look forward to their growth and success," said David McGee, executive director of UC Davis InnovationAccess.

"We at Airmid are extremely excited about the prospect of working with the University of California and its world-renowned researchers to bring these potential therapies to the millions of sufferers of autoimmune diseases, who so desperately need safer and more effective treatments," said Airmid CEO George Miljanich.

The first compound, ShK(L5) is a synthetic version of a component of sea anemone venom. It prevents the activity of human immune cells that are implicated in conditions such as multiple sclerosis and is effective in animal models of multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The second, PAP-1, is derived from a shrub, the common rue. In the laboratory, it can suppress skin inflammation in rats. It could have potential as a treatment for psoriasis.

Both compounds act to block channels that allow potassium ions to flow in or out of cells. These ion channels appear to play an important role in regulating the activity of cells in the immune system and are especially abundant on a type of immune cell implicated in diseases such as multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.

"This could be a completely new mechanism of immune suppression for patients who do not respond to or have side effects from current therapies," said UC Davis' Heike Wulff, assistant professor of medical pharmacology and toxicology.

The compounds were discovered by Wulff and George Chandy, professor of physiology and biophysics at UC Irvine, as a result of work in Chandy's laboratory going back more than two decades. Chandy and Wulff are also among the co-founders of Airmid.

Both compounds have been tested in the laboratory but not yet studied in humans. UC Davis' InnovationAccess unit negotiated the licensing agreements on behalf of both campuses.

About Airmid

Airmid is a privately held pharmaceutical company based in Redwood City, Calif. Airmid is focused on developing its novel potassium ion channel blockers as safer and more effective medicines for a variety of autoimmune diseases that are inadequately treated by current therapies. These diseases include multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

About UC Davis InnovationAccess

UC Davis InnovationAccess actively manages a patent portfolio of 841 inventions reflecting the diversity of the campus's research base, and seeks opportunities to commercialize these via licensing, with 485 currently active licensees. UC Davis has also seen an upsurge in startup companies emerging from campus research and technologies, with nearly 20 companies founded since 2005. The UC Davis InnovationAccess team is comprised of more than 20 professionals with PhDs, JDs, and MBAs with significant private-sector experience.

Additional information:

UC Davis InnovationAccess
Airmid Inc.
Media contact(s):

Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-4533,