UT Dallas Startup Develops Technology to Battle Opioid Epidemic

A UT Dallas biomedical startup has received a $1.65 million grant to develop promising medication aimed at battling the opioid addiction epidemic. CerSci Therapeutics will receive an addition one million in 2018, totalling to $2.65 million by 2018 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for its Direct-to-Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant.

CerSci is an incubator at the Institution for Innovation and Entrepreneurship based at UT Dallas’ venture development center. According to CerSci, the company will focus on pain management through “non-addictive solutions” to reduce opioid prescriptions including oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and others.

The grant from NIDA will help CerSCi’s research and medicine formulations. Specifically, the company will use the funds to further develop drug CT-044, which is a non-opioid pill that targets post-surgical pain. Dr. Lucas Rodriguez, CerSci’s cofounder and CEO, says CT-044 quickly eliminates the pain that free radicals and superoxides cause. “The process works at the source of pain, unlike opioid and other analgesic painkillers, which work by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain, and have the potential adverse side effects of dependency and addiction,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

CerSci’s approach to pain management is a reported “paradigm shift,” as it completely bypasses opioid receptors. “Other pharmaceutical companies are creating drugs that help patients who are already addicted to opioids,” Rodriguez said. “What we’re interested in doing is creating a drug that prevents those addictions from happening in the first place.”

CerSci anticipates that, with the grant, the CT-044 drug will be available for clinical trials within 15 months.

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