Neuregulins are a class of naturally occurring protein growth factors that have multiple effects on the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Acorda is developing its lead recombinant neuregulin candidate, Glial Growth Factor 2 (GGF2), in a number of nervous system and cardiac indications, including heart failure, stroke and peripheral nerve injury. The most advanced of these is a clinical-stage program in heart failure.
Acorda completed a Phase 1 clinical trial of GGF2 in heart failure patients in late 2012. The trial was designed to study safety and tolerability in a single ascending dose of GGF2 in people with heart failure who were already on optimized regimens of currently available cardiovascular therapies. Several exploratory measures of efficacy were also included in the trial protocol. Data from the trial were presented at the American College of Cardiology 62nd Annual Scientific Session in March 2013.
In October 2013, Acorda initiated a second Phase 1b clinical trial of GGF2 in heart failure. This is a single-infusion trial in people with heart failure to assess safety and tolerability of three dose levels of GGF2 studied in the first clinical trial. There are also several explorative measures of efficacy included in the trial, which is expected to be completed in 2015.
Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s need for oxygen. Heart failure is most commonly the result of damage to the heart, caused by coronary artery disease or from added stress to the heart from other health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Approximately 5.1 million people in the U.S. have heart failure. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that about half of people who develop heart failure will die within 5 years of their diagnosis.
GGF2 may offer a unique heart failure therapeutic option, as existing medications aim to compensate for the heart’s diminished blood pumping ability, but do not directly restore heart muscle function. GGF2 acts at the level of the muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, and may be able to restore cardiomyocyte functions that are impaired in heart failure, which might improve the heart’s ability to contract. Preclinical studies have found that GGF2 improved contractile function and possibly protected the heart structure from acute and chronic stressors.
Stroke/Peripheral Nerve Damage
Neuregulins have also demonstrated a range of effects in neuroprotection and repair in preclinical models of disease and injury to both the central and peripheral nervous systems.
In preclinical studies, GGF2 has been found to partially protect the brain from the consequences of stroke and enhance recovery of sensorimotor function with a wide treatment time window of several days. Preclinical studies have also found improvements in function following damage to peripheral nerves. In a preclinical model that simulates nerve damage that occurs with surgical prostatectomy, GGF2 was found to protect nerves and restore erectile function.