October 15, 2014

Medicortex tackles brain injuries

Every year 1.7 million people in the US and 2.5 million in Europe suffer a traumatic brain injury, which could result from a car accident or sports injury or fall.
Every year 1.7 million people in the US and 2.5 million in Europe suffer a traumatic brain injury, which could result from a car accident or sports injury or fall.
Timo Jaakonaho / Lehtikuva

A Finnish startup is trying to develop a new treatment to limit the long-term effects of brain injuries.

Medicortex Finland is also hoping to identify a biomarker and a diagnostic test so that the severity and extent of brain injuries can be reliably established.

“Brain injury is one of the largest and most serious unmet medical needs in the world today,” says neurobiologist Dr. Adrian Harel, Medicortex founder and CEO. “The number of patients is very high but investment in money, time and effort to find a diagnostic cure is relatively low.”

High profile cases like that of Michael Schumacher the German race car driver and Formula One winner, who suffered a near-fatal ski accident, are just the tip of the iceberg, says Harel.

Assessing the damage

Most of the damage caused by TBI does not occur upon the initial impact to the head but as a consequence of secondary brain injury. Currently, there are no drugs that can stop this development.

Most of the damage caused by TBI does not occur upon the initial impact to the head but as a consequence of secondary brain injury. Currently, there are no drugs that can stop this development.

Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

Every year 1.7 million people in the US and 2.5 million in Europe suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which could result from a car accident or sports injury or fall. In addition, millions more worldwide suffer from an acquired brain injury (ABI) like a stroke, or exposure to toxic gas, or growth of a tumour or any infection of the brain.

Currently, doctors have no way of diagnosing or determining the amount and severity of the damage caused by a brain injury.

“We are developing a biomarker, which could indicate whether a patient should stay for overnight observation or be hospitalised for two weeks to be treated,” says Harel

The goal is to incorporate the biomarker into a quick and accurate diagnostic kit that can be easily used by healthcare professionals. Ideally, the kit would not only diagnose the presence of brain injury. It would also quantify its severity and indicate the precise treatment extent needed.

No silver bullet

Most of the damage caused by TBI does not occur upon the initial impact to the head but as a consequence of secondary brain injury. Currently, there are no drugs that can stop this development.

“Since the injury is so complex, you cannot treat it with a single silver bullet,” says Harel. “You need a drug which will address several processes. We are investigating molecules that could stop a chain of events, several biochemical processes at the same time, thereby preventing the long-term deterioration of the brain.”

Medicortex’s treatment involves three chemical mechanisms simultaneously, binding free metal ions in the brain as well as limiting the damage caused by free radical oxidation. This approach is aimed at preventing the secondary brain damage.

The company, which is based in Turku, is looking for investors and has launched a crowdfunding campaign for preclinical development. In May, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, Tekes, granted Medicortex 94 000 euros.

Text: Vincent Landon

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