US grant for University of Sydney spinout Kinoxis Therapeutics

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University of Sydney spinout Kinoxis Therapeutics has received a grant from the US National Institutes of Health to help fund development of a potential treatment for opioid withdrawal.

The grant of up to $US4.6 million ($6.8 million), which has been awarded under the 'Health Helping to End Addiction Long-Term' or the NIH HEAL Initiative, is the only one of 375 awarded outside North America.

The primary target of Kinoxis is the brain oxytocin system, which receives considerable interest for its role in the regulation of social behaviour and inhibitory effects on addictive behaviours.

The funding will be used to support the further development of the company’s lead compound, KNX100, which was discovered by researchers at the University of Sydney.

Dr Michael Bowen of the Brain and Mind Centre and School of Psychology at the University of Sydney and Head of Translational Science for Kinoxis Therapeutics is the scientific lead principal investigator on the grant. Professor Iain McGregor, also of the Brain and Mind Centre and School of Psychology, is a principal investigator.

Opioid withdrawal is the state of severe physical and mental distress that rapidly emerges when someone stops using opioids or tries to cut down.

Opioid overdose is the number one cause of preventable deaths in the US. In Australia, opioids accounted for just over three deaths a day in 2018 and were linked to more than half of the drug induced deaths.

KNX100 is a small molecule therapeutic drug candidate being developed by Kinoxis to treat opioid-use disorder as well as a range of other substance use disorders and central nervous system disorders.

“This award provides the opportunity for Kinoxis to augment and accelerate the development of our lead compound, KNX100, into human clinical studies,” said Mr Hugh Alsop, CEO of Kinoxis.

“The award is recognition by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the NIH of KNX100’s potential to successfully manage opioid withdrawal symptoms and help curb the opioid crisis. Kinoxis is pleased to be partnering with the world’s leading research institute on substance use disorders on this project”.

According to University of Sydney deputy vice-chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison, “We are delighted to see this major investment and vote of confidence in the next stage of Kinoxis’s work to tackle a major public health burden. Born out of outstanding basic research conducted at the University of Sydney and developed in close collaboration with our funding partner Uniseed, Kinoxis is a terrific example of leading Australian research being commercialised and developed in Australia, but also attracting global attention.”