Technology

Sea4Us’s core activities are based on compound library generation, drug discovery and preclinical development. Our compound library derives from unique marine organisms, which are important sources of ion channel modulators. We screen such compounds against a number of molecular targets (ion channels) as NaV, KV, CaV and TRP channels. Such experimental screening is complemented by computational in silico analysis that tune the development of innovative molecules.

Due to its nature, the Sea4Us’s Drug Discovery & Development Platform allows the discovery of novel pharmaceutical drugs for several unmet clinical needs. It can be used to identify novel modulators for ion channels involved in different pathologies such as chronic pain, epilepsy, diabetes, cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, and skin diseases, among others.

 

Marine Inspiration

Marine ecosystems constitute more than 70% of the planet’s surface and comprise a continuous resource of immeasurable chemical entities and their biological activities. Many marine living organisms, such as sponges, anemones, corals or bryozoans, are soft bodied and/or sessile. In the absence of spines or strong shells, the development of chemical compounds that confer ecological advantages for the organisms that contain them is very common. Indeed, millions of years of evolution on these marine animals resulted in highly specialized and ingenious solutions for defense against predators, comprising compounds that have demonstrated a wide range of biological and pharmacological properties, leading to potential new drug candidates.

As more marine compounds become purified and tested for their effects on ion channels, more important medical applications will inevitably be discovered. Here lies the inspiration of Sea4Us and its enormous potential for the discovery of new therapeutic compounds.

 

Ion Channel Modulators

The dynamics of ions (like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium or chloride) in the bloodstream, other fluids and inside the cells of our body, is extremely important to maintain our vital physiological functions.

In general, the movement (inflow or outflow) of ions across cell membranes occurs through pores created by ion channels. This ionic movement is tightly regulated by ions concentration, cell membrane potential, cellular factors or drugs. Consequently, ion channels play a critical role in a wide variety of processes in the human body, including in the maintenance of fluid balance, in signal transduction within and among cells (e.g. immune system cells) and in the generation and propagation of electric signals along nerves, heart and other organs. Ion channels thus represent important therapeutic targets for a broad range of unmet clinical needs, and there are already several drugs in the market that function through the modulation of specific ion channels. There is, therefore, a huge demand for activators and inhibitors (i.e. activity modulators) for specific ion channels that are key players in certain diseases or syndromes.

Chronic Pain

Sea4Us is currently developing a novel therapy for chronic pain based on the suppression of the hyperexcitability of the pain signalling pathway, through modulation of activity of key ion channels located in neurons from the dorsal root ganglia (DRG), a “switch” to the input of pain to the brain.

Chronic pain is a syndrome, caused by various pathologies (diabetes, cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia, shingles, etc.), that affects 1.5 billion people worldwide (21% of the world’s population). Its conditions are deep-reaching in terms of their physical, psychological, social and economic consequences, in particular since there is no adequate treatment for the most serious cases, causing a huge negative impact on society. In Portugal, for example, the weight of the direct (health care costs) and indirect costs (workplace absenteeism and low productivity) on the economy, related to chronic pain, represent nearly 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

The novel analgesic being developed by Sea4Us will tackle moderate to severe chronic pain types currently without adequate treatment. It has the potential to be a major breakthrough in pain management due to its novel mode of action, target specificity, effectiveness and predictable lack of noxious side effects, thus improving patients’ quality of life.