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Development of Novel Melanocortin-4 Receptor Peptide Agonists for the Treatment ofMC4R Haploinsufficiency

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 2R42DK127817-02
Agency Tracking Number: R42DK127817
Amount: $1,669,553.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: 102
Solicitation Number: PA21-262
Timeline
Solicitation Year: 2021
Award Year: 2022
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2022-09-15
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2024-08-31
Small Business Information
64 HOMER ST
Newton, MA 02459-1517
United States
DUNS: 117214311
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: Yes
Principal Investigator
 TOMI SAWYER
 (508) 367-3127
 sawyerkrt@aol.com
Business Contact
 DANIEL HOUSMAN
Phone: (617) 216-9921
Email: dhousman@couragetx.com
Research Institution
 UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
 
1600 HURON PARKWAY
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109-5001
United States

 Nonprofit College or University
Abstract

The melanocortin peptide therapeutic setmelanotide, (ImcivreeTM), is highly effective in the treatment of the rare
obesity syndromes, POMC and leptin receptor deficiency. However, the drug is ineffective for the most
common syndromic obesity, melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) deficiency (MC4R haploinsufficiency), found at a
prevalence greater than 1/1000 individuals. Further, the drug is ineffective in the treatment of dietary obesity. In
addition to the fact that Imcivree does not address the unmet medical needs in patients with syndromic
obesity due to MC4R deficiency, Imcivree is a pan-agonist of four melanocortin receptors and causes
hyperpigmentation by activating the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) on dermal and follicular melanocytes.
Lastly, the formulation of Imcivree is not ideal, requiring daily subcutaneous administration. In our Phase I
application, we proposed to develop melanocortin-3 receptor antagonists as peptide therapeutics for MC4R
deficiency, since the MC3R is a negative regulator of MC4R neurons. However, in the course of
developing these molecules, currently still in progress, we made a striking discovery. Based on the
extensive structure-activity relationship (SAR) work initiated in Phase 1, we also identified four novel
families of MC4R agonists. Characterizing select peptides in a validated obese mouse model of human
MC4R deficiency (MC4R+/- mice), we discovered two families of these MC4R agonist peptides that, unlike
Imcivree, have significant weight loss efficacy in MC4R haploinsufficiency, as well as in dietary obesity.
More recent work provides modified versions of these peptides that have reduced MC1R efficacy as well.
Finally, we have shown that melanocortin peptides can be formulated in injectable PLGA microspheres by
a new remote-loading technique, yielding steady release of peptide for more than 30 days offering the
potential for optimizing the therapeutic window, improving patient compliance, and reducing cost. In this
phase II application, we propose to 1) complete the chemical development of MC4R agonist peptides for
the treatment of MC4R deficiency, 2) complete pre-GLP safety studies for up to three peptide development
candidates for MC4R deficiency, and 3) formulate and characterize the pharmacokinetics, efficacy, and
side effect profile of these peptides in our mouse model of human MC4R deficiency. The product of this
Phase II STTR proposal will be one or more therapeutic candidates for the treatment of MC4R
haploinsufficiency, and a pathway to commercialization of these therapeutics.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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