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Prodrugs and Derivatives of Hydroxymethylfurfural (5-HMF) to Develop a Novel, Bioavailable Treatment for Sickle Cell Disease

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R43HL150961-01
Agency Tracking Number: R43HL150961
Amount: $299,962.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: NHLBI
Solicitation Number: PA18-574
Solicitation Year: 2018
Award Year: 2020
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2020-03-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2021-02-28
Small Business Information
Richmond, VA 23219-1551
United States
DUNS: 116965051
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: Yes
Principal Investigator
 (804) 305-2594
Business Contact
Phone: (804) 305-2594
Research Institution

In this SBIR Phase I project, IllExcor Therapeutics proposes the development and evaluation of novel prodrug
therapeutics as a yet untapped approach to treat sickle cell disease (SCD), a hereditary malady involving a single
point hemoglobin (Hb) mutation that leads to severe adverse physiological complications culminating in painful
vaso-occlusive crises, chronic endothelial damage, and progressive end-organ injury and dysfunction, ultimately
leading to premature death. The small molecules proposed for therapeutic development are novel, more potent
derivatives of the natural product 5-(Hydroxymethyl)furfural (5-HMF), a highly effective antisickling agent that
targets the root cause of SCD by allosterically increasing Hb oxygen (O2) affinity. Notably, this compound has
demonstrated potent antisickling activity with minimal toxicity in Phase I clinical trials (healthy adults and SCD
patients). Additional compounds acting through the same mechanism include vanillin (and derivatives) and
GBT440 (Voxelotor, currently in Phase III clinical trials). However, the biological activity of 5-HMF, its derivatives,
and all antisickling compounds acting through this mechanism, centers around an aldehyde moiety that forms a
Schiff-base with the N-termini of Hb α-subunits. And while this essential aldehyde is key for bioactivity, it also
undergoes rapid in vivo metabolism in most cases, and consequently, is responsible for limiting the plasma half-
life and bioavailability of many promising drug candidates. Therefore, the goal of this Phase I proposal is to
establish the feasibility and therapeutic potential of the most potent of our novel, metabolically labile thiazolidine
ethyl ester prodrug derivatives of 5-HMF. This approach has already demonstrated the potential for more durable
in vivo pharmacokinetics in our preliminary studies. The results of the proposed investigation are anticipated to
help obtain critical preliminary data to support larger IND-enabling studies in Phase II. To achieve the SBIR
Phase I goals, two Specific Aims are proposed. Specific Aim 1: Scale-up chemical synthesis for 3 prodrug
derivatives, and a control (i.e., MSDD1, underivatized, native 5-HMF thiazolidine ethyl ester prodrug); and
Specific Aim 2: Evaluate the in vivo PK/PD properties of the prodrugs in wild-type mice, and, subsequently, the
most promising prodrug candidate in the Townes mouse model of SCD. While the goal of this Phase I proposal
is to identify a lead SCD candidate possessing in vivo properties and efficacy to support a Phase II proposal, we
anticipate that a more complete understanding of the untapped potential of prodrug derivatization may have a
profound impact on the future development of allosteric Hb modifiers for a wide variety of conditions.Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic disorder that affects approximately 100,000 Americans, and millions more
worldwide, with an estimated cost to the US healthcare system of over $1B annually. Until recently there had
been no new therapeutics developed for SCD treatment in more than 20 years, leaving those suffering from this
disease with limited clinical options. We propose the development of a novel SCD treatment using prodrugs and
derivatives of 5-HMF, a natural product found in many sugar containing foods (and shown to be well tolerated in
high doses in humans), to enhance the oxygen binding affinity of hemoglobin in such a way that red blood cells
no longer sickle, thereby providing a new treatment option for mitigating the adverse health effects of the disease
to significantly improve quality of life and longevity.

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

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