Portuguese startup “close to licensing pioneering treatment for chronic pain”

Sagres company has been working on marine analgesic for more than decade

Portuguese startup Sea4Us is close to licensing a new painkiller discovered in marine organisms off the Algarve coast, which could relieve the chronic pain of hundreds of millions of people around the world, writes Lusa.

After more than 10 years of research, this Portuguese company in the field of advanced biotechnology, based in Sagres, Vila do Bispo, makes “no secret of its ambition to sell the discovery to one of the ‘sharks’ of the global pharmaceutical industry.

“Chronic pain is a disease that afflicts one in five people worldwide, a proportion that is even higher in the Portuguese population, Pedro Lima, Sea4US’ researcher and scientific director told Lusa.

The company has been developing the first non-opioid marine analgesic which, if all goes as planned, will be effective in treating chronic pain without causing addiction or side effects, because it does not centrally affect the brain, he went on.

“What we’re developing is an alternative to opioids, morphine and similar, which do relieve pain in many cases and others don’t, but which have sometimes terrible side effects,” explained the neurophysiologist and marine biologist.

The very likely future new medicine is possible thanks to the particular characteristics of marine organisms that have evolved and are embedded in the rocks of caves and crevices on the Algarve coast, near Sagres.

Lusa has accompanied one of the trips, in a semi-rigid boat from Sagres, in which a Sea4Us team led by Pedro Lima went underwater diving to collect sponges and other marine organisms from rocks between Sagres and Lagos.

“It is in these organisms that we found a chemistry that is beyond human ingenuity”, Lima explains. “Human ingenuity cannot synthesise these forms that we find in these animals. This is our concept,” he added, after a dive that lasted around half an hour.

Sagres has been the main location for collecting marine samples, where Sea4Us has equipment on its premises to process them. The pre-clinical development however has all been carried out at the Physiology Laboratory of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

Sea4US also networks with other organisations, such as the University of the Algarve and educational institutions in Europe, the United States and Japan, as well as companies that develop a wide variety of substances.

“Our concept is to take it (the product) to a point – we hope to reach in a year and a half – where we can licence it to one of these ‘sharks’ (multinationals in the pharmaceutical sector),” Lima went on.

The company is now carrying out the tests that precede the first clinical trials on humans, and if everything goes as expected, it could move towards licensing and getting pharmaceutical companies to put the product on the market, which could take around five years.

Sea4Us accepts that it doesn’t have the money needed to carry out all the tests on human volunteers, and this is why it would like to sell the project in about a year and a half’s time, when human trials would be due to begin.

So far, the company has invested between €1.5 and 2 million in this project, with the help of public funds (some of which awarded back in 2018).

Lusa adds that Sea4US hopes to continue investing in other projects, “some of which have already begun, which will make it possible to fight diseases such as overactive bladder, chemotherapy-induced neuropathy and epilepsy”.

Source: Lusa

Portugal Resident