London UK, April 24, 2019:  LifeArc, one of the UK’s leading medical research charities, has signed a deal to collaborate with the University of Kent on an ion channel drug discovery programme. Small molecule modulators, optimised as part of the programme, could be capable of affecting the sensitivity of neurons and of showing efficacy in treating chronic pain.

Through the work of Professor Alistair Mathie and Dr Emma Veale, The University of Kent has developed considerable expertise in the characterisation of potassium ion channels. The TREK-2 ion channel is a potential target for drugs intended to reduce the sensation of pain.

LifeArc will conduct target validation, high throughput screening (HTS) and will further develop any ‘hits’ identified through that screening. Both parties estimate that a minimum of two to three years’ work will be required before any small-molecule candidates are ready to enter clinical development.

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Justin Bryans, LifeArc’s Executive Director, Drug Discovery, said: “This collaboration is another opportunity for LifeArc to deploy its growing expertise in exploiting the potential of two-pore potassium channels (K2P).  We have already licensed therapeutic candidates for onward clinical development, related to other potassium channels, to commercial pharmaceutical partners.”

Professor Alistair Mathie, Professor of Pharmacology and Cell Biology at the University of Kent said: “Following our characterisation of a potential target for new pain therapies, LifeArc will help us to develop small molecule drug candidates.  We hope this will lead to an effective new class of pain medicine for patients.”

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Notes to editors

About LifeArc

LifeArc is a medical research charity with a 25-year legacy of helping scientists and organisations turn their research into treatments and diagnostics for patients. LifeArc turns great science into greater patient impact. The charity brings together a network of partners to tackle specific diseases and directly funds academic and early stage research.  So far, LifeArc’s work has helped to develop four drugs (Keytruda®, Actemra®, Tysabri® and Entyvio®) and a test for resistance to carbapenems.
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About the University of Kent

Established in 1965, the University of Kent – the UK’s European university – now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome. The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the South East and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals. Kent has received two Queen’s Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.