FRAXA Research Foundation initially partnered with Healx in 2016 to identify existing drugs with potential to treat fragile X syndrome, using machine learning algorithms and computational biology. The study produced results, and now FRAXA and Healx have launched a new round of studies to evaluate combinations of compounds, including both drugs and natural products.
While there are over 8,000 rare diseases affecting an estimated 350 million people worldwide, only around 200 of these conditions have effective treatments. Due to the high cost of developing new drugs, rare diseases have historically been less attractive to pharmaceutical companies. Drug repurposing systematically leverages the detailed information available on approved drugs and reduces the time and money needed to deliver safe “new” treatments, but with greater success rates and a potentially more immediate impact on health care.
The FRAXA Drug Validation Initiative (FRAX-DVI) provides speedy, cost-effective, objective testing of potential new fragile X treatments. FRAXA has funded FRAX-DVI for $50,000 in 2017.
FRAXA is proud to make a 2017 grant of $90,000 over two years to Clinton Canal, PhD. Dr. Canal, previously a research assistant professor at Northeastern University, has just launched his own lab at Mercer University in Atlanta, GA. He and his graduate students are fully committed to fragile X research.
With $258,000 in grants since 2013 from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Anis Contractor and Dr. Qionger He at Northwestern University are exploring the potential of the available drug bumetanide to correct altered GABA signalling in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome.
With a $45,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation in 2009, Dr. Mark Bear and Dr. Asha Bhakar used High Content Screening (HCS) to develop an assay sensitive to the effect of the FXS genotype. This project was funded in full by NIH after the first year.
With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation awarded in 2017, Dr. Clinton Canal targets seratonin receptors. “There are 15 unique serotonin receptors (at least) and many of them impact the function of brain circuits that are impaired in neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders,” said Dr. Canal. “Results from this project could guide new drug discovery or drug repurposing for fragile X.”
“We treated mice with metformin and corrected all the core fragile X deficits. We are optimistic about using metformin in human clinical trials. This is a generic drug with few side effects” says Nahum Sonenberg, PhD, James McGill Professor, Department of Biochemistry, McGill Cancer Center, McGill University.
FRAXA awarded $44,000 to Healx in 2017 for drug repurposing to find new treatments for fragile X syndrome. The results of this study include eight top “hits” which show promise for fragile X. FRAXA is further investigating these hits.
Dr. Jongens and his collaborators have found an insulin-like protein in the fly brain that is overexpressed in the Fragile X mutant fly, leading to increased activity of the insulin signaling pathway. Furthermore, they found that certain behavioral patterns in the fragile X flies can be rescued by expressing the FX gene just in insulin producing neurons in the fly brain. In the mutant, there are other changes in the signaling pathways, including a decrease in cAMP and elevation in PI3K, mTOR, Akt and ERK activity. They now propose to study 2 medicines used for diabetes: pioglitazone (increases cAMP and decreases Akt and ERK) and metformin (inhibits mTOR), in flies and mice to validate the potential efficacy of these novel therapeutics for Fragile X.
With a $90,000 grant from the FRAXA Research Foundation from 2013-2014, Dr. Andres Ozaita led a team to test rimonabant’s ability to blockade the CB1 receptor. Blocking CB1 has shown potential to reverse most symptoms of disease in mice bred to mimic fragile X syndrome.