This month, we welcome back Glycologix, who recently rejoined NSIV.
At Glycologix, what began as a potential cure for wrinkles has evolved into what could become the first treatment on the market for a debilitating urology disease.
The company is developing a compound that mimics the properties of proteogylcans, molecules which provide hydration and perform other important biological functions for soft tissue in the body. Through the natural process of aging, proteoglycans are depleted, causing degradation of skin, cartilage, and connective tissues. Wrinkles and achy joints are the result.
Though promising as a treatment for damaged soft tissue, proteoglycan molecules cannot be easily manufactured outside the body. Isolating them from humans or animals is too expensive, and impractical for drug development. Only small pieces of the compounds are affordable and readily available, and Glycologix uses simple, controllable chemistry to knit them together into larger molecules that resemble proteoglycans.
CSO Thomas Jozefiak refers to these new biopolymers as “superGAGs,” a name which, unintentionally, is starting to stick. “I am hoping that our SuperGAGs will act like real proteoglycans in soft tissue, and help repair cartilage… or help skin regain hydration if it’s aged, and wrinkly” Jozefiak says. “That was the first goal of the company, before we discovered interstitial cystitis.”
Interstitial cystitis is a disease of the bladder that mainly effects women, and substantially impacts a patient’s quality of life. In a healthy bladder, a proteoglycan coating prevents toxic substances in urine from irritating the bladder wall. That coating is eroded in patients with interstitial cystitis, resulting in chronic pain and the persistent, urgent need to urinate.
“The current goal of Glycologix is to develop SuperGAGs specifically to treat interstitial cystitis. There really aren’t any effective treatments for this disease… SuperGAG treatment may be able to help these patients by replenishing the proteoglycan coating on the inside of the bladder wall, which would stop the progression of the disease,” Jozefiak says.
The idea behind Glycologix is fairly simple, the concept proven, the technology promising. Their biggest roadblock so far has been finding the resources to get proof of concept data in an animal model.
“Everyone in startup world is struggling for funding… Really, it just takes finding the right investor: someone who either has interest in the technology, or the disease, or the team… It requires a relationship and trust.”
Jozefiak has succeed in securing funding from the National Institutes of Health through an SBIR grant that allows him to test his technology for interstitial cystitis. With this funding Glycologix is currently collaborating with researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, who have an excellent rat model of interstitial cystitis. Good data in a disease model could enable Glycologix to attract private funding for preparation for their first human clinical trial.
Their success would provide a new avenue of treatment and much needed relief for those suffering from the chronic pain of interstitial cystitis.