Start-Up - Mimetogen Pharmaceuticals Inc. NGF Mimetics for Ophthalmic Diseases

Mimetogen Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s founding goal was to use synthetic analogs of nerve growth factor to protect the retinal ganglion cells of the optic nerve that die as glaucoma progresses. In doing so, it intended to show that its drugs provided neuroprotective ability and also enhanced this effect for other treatments prescribed to lower intraocular pressure. Mimetogen validated that program in animals, but given the cost and length of clinical trials for glaucoma, the company switched gears and began developing its NGF mimetics as potential treatments for dry eye syndrome.

Advances in molecular biology continue shaping the aspirations and business strategies of start-ups across many fields of medicine, as new insights into mechanisms of disease spark ideas for novel treatments. Sometimes, though, ambitions ignited by exciting science have to be refocused as commercial realities become clear.

Such is the case at Mimetogen Pharmaceuticals Inc. When the company was founded in 2005, it was intent on "getting closer to the root problems" of glaucoma than current treatments, which simply reduce intraocular pressure (IOP). Garth Cumberlidge, a co-founder of the company who continues serving as its President and CEO, explains that Mimetogen set out to protect the retinal ganglion cells of the optic nerve that are known to die as glaucoma progresses. It meant to do so with synthetic analogs of nerve growth factor (NGF) developed by H. Uri Saragovi of McGill University, the start-up's other co-founder.

Mimetogen was able to show that its peptide mimetics were, indeed, beneficial in animal models of glaucoma - showing neuroprotective ability on their own, and also enhancing this effect for drugs prescribed to lower IOP. The protection may come about because the compounds, delivered to the vitreous humor through injection, bind to so-called TrkA receptors on retinal ganglion cells. Their presence prevents the death of these neurons.

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