The power of serendipity: From a lab mistake to a stroke drug
Created around research from founder Professor Lars Edvinsson, Edvince is focused on the development of a potential drug that, given early, could prevent the brain damage that can occur up to two weeks after a stroke. Edvince is based at the SmiLe Incubator, Lund.
Around 15 million people will have a stroke each year, with over 6 million dying. The stroke, whether it is caused by a clot or a bleed, starves the brain of oxygen, which in turn causes brain damage. In up to 70% of people who have had a subarachnoid haemorrhage, a stroke caused by a ruptured blood vessel, nearby blood vessels will be triggered to go into a delayed contraction, also called vasospasm. This can occur between 3 and 15 days after the initial stroke, and further increases the risk of brain damage or death due to a delayed cerebral ischemia.
With a focus on stopping the triggering event that leads to vasospasm, Edvince is developing drugs that have potential to minimise damage resulting from stroke by maintaining blood flow to the brain during this critical period.
Building a company from an accidental finding
Edvince's roots go back to the late 1980s, and the discovery of endothelin A and B receptors, involved in vasodilation and vasoconstriction. In Lars Edvinsson's labs, a cerebral blood vessel sample, to be used in an endothelin receptor experiment, was left on the bench overnight, rather than being refrigerated for an experiment the next day. Adding vasodilators to the sample constricted the vessel rather than dilating it, a serendipitous finding that a few decades later resulted in better understanding of how blood vessels behave in the later stages of subarachnoid haemorrhage, and in the formation of Edvince.
"Lars Edvinsson is a professor, a researcher, and a senior medical consultant, and his research is based on clinical practice to a high degree. He has seen the great medical need for the drug, and understands how a new drug could be used in practice," said Carl-Magnus Högerkorp, CEO, Edvince.
Edvince is privately-owned by its founders, investors and management, and this group has provided the funding to date. A private placement is planned for 2017, with an aim to list the company on NASDAQ First North in 2018.
Whereas many companies are targeting the initial bleed or clot in stroke, Edvince's aim is to prevent the damage resulting from the lack of blood flow to the brain. Edvince's lead candidate, Edv2209, is in preclinical development for use to prevent vasospasm/delayed cerebral ischemia following subarachnoid haemorrhage.
"While the initial stroke event needs to be stopped as soon as possible, there is an optimal window to prevent the changes that occurs in the cerebral blood vessels and the ensuing contraction. We expect to administer Edv2209 six or eight hours after the initial stroke, where it would stop the cascade leading to cerebral ischemia," said Högerkorp.
"We selected this indication as it is an orphan indication, and so we will be working with a smaller patient pool. Our aim is to get Edv2209 to phase II, then seek partners. This will then free us up to focus on our second-generation molecule EdvFGI, which is being developed for the much broader indication of focal and global ischaemia," said Högerkorp.
Edv2209 stems from a large amount in vivo and translational ex vivo investigations, and clinical trials for the drug are planned for the end of 2017.