PaxMedica has entered a research collaboration agreement with PoloMar Health to investigate the use of the anti-purinergic compound emodin in treating autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

As part of the deal, PaxMedica will retain exclusive rights to develop and commercialise a highly bioavailable form of emodin and its Phase II proof-of-concept trial is expected to be initiated in the second quarter of this year in the US.

PoloMar Health will sponsor the study while the BRAIN Foundation will provide funding.

Based on the outcome of the study, PaxMedica may sell the pharmaceutical product emodin basis the prescription following guidance provided by the FDA and other regulatory authorities.

PaxMedica CEO Howard Weisman said: “This valuable collaboration with PoloMar Health and the BRAIN Foundation is expected to enable PaxMedica to cost-effectively advance an existing asset in our pre-clinical pipeline, while maintaining our unwavering focus and commitment to the development and future approval of our primary clinical pipeline product, PAX-101.

“Moreover, as a selective P2X7 purine receptor inhibitor, emodin will extend our overall knowledge of these types of agents in the treatment of the core symptoms of autism.”

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PoloMar Health can develop and commercialise any non-prescription supplement form of the product, as per the agreement.

Emodin is a naturally occurring orally bioavailable selective P2X7 inhibitor and is sold as an over-the-counter nutritional supplement.

It showed positive results in various measures of memory, behaviour, and cognition in a mouse model of autism, as well as in various vivo animal studies.