BIO-X awards project targeting novel BIO-X awards project targeting novel mechanism to resolve sexual dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is common and 5-20% of all men suffer from it at various degrees of severity. ‘All current treatments target the end organ, the corpus cavernosum of the penis, but they don’t work unless your libido works,’ says Professor Jarl Wikberg at the Dept of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, Uppsala University.
Drugs like Viagra or Cialis are ineffective unless the patient’s libido is functional. Jarl Wikberg’s team is working on a new substance, whose primary activity is to enhance the libido, through the initial pre-clinical steps as a preparation for further development to a new drug.
The original substance, isolated from a plant, was extracted crudely in minute amounts. A small group of patients with ED were treated with this extract, and most people showed improved sexual function for up to a week. Jarl’s team quickly synthesized similar molecules, and tested them in male rats that typically showed a dramatic increase in sexual activity whether the disorder originated from a somatic or a psychological cause. This observation needs confirmation in controlled clinical trials, which is why Prof Wikberg’s project is critical.
Straight talk on science and business
‘BIO-X funds enabled us to perform or buy the pre-clinical experiments,’ says Jarl Wikberg. He praises BIO-X as being ‘the most cost-effective approach available to support researchers today’. From the moment of first application, the Scientific Advisory Board of BIO-X provided hands-on coaching to ensure the project runs smoothly. ‘BIO-X is strict about a good project plan, but they provide the support to do the work,’ says Jarl. ‘I find it remarkable that all applicants received feedback, even if they were not approved. Direct communication helps young researchers write a better application next time’, says Jarl with a nod to the formality of most other fund providers.
Goliath needs David
BIO-X cannot supply the 1 billion USD it takes to bring a new drug to the market today. Jarl Wikberg is positive that the 3 million SEK award from BIO-X will fund the pre-clinical experiments for an attractive data package for a larger financial partner, like one of the pharmaceutical giants. The new substance could address deficiencies in today’s therapies, potentially useful for all ED patients, currently 1 billion men worldwide. The number of men suffering from ED is expected to double by the year 2025. The European market for ED treatment products was valued at around 1.1 billion USD in 2007. Sales of ED treatment products in Europe are expected to increase by 50% over the next 5 years. ‘We are well on track, so we hope it will be attractive for future investors,’ says Jarl Wikberg.
Coaching a professor
Although Jarl Wikberg has experience in running spin-off companies, he still values the role of BIO-X. ‘The Advisory Board can coach every aspect, particularly the commercial part. Some of the pre-clinical tests would not be accepted by a traditional grant organisation,’ says Jarl. ‘Embarking on the road to commercialisation involves making a brave choice. It’s not easy to get the right support for that decision. Uppsala BIO's program BIO-X gave us the confidence to commercialise an invention, and yet remain researchers.’