Purdue startup lands state award to advance work on spinal cord injury drug

Purdue-affiliated startup Neuro Vigor has received $100,000 in early commercialization money from the Indiana Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Fund to advance work on a promising pain treatment.

The company plans to use the funds to “identify and validate” its lead drug candidate for the treatment of neuropathic pain in spinal cord injuries, said Neuro Vigor CEO Mark Van Fleet.

The award marks the first time the research fund, created in 2007 by the Indiana Legislature, has provided support to an early commercialization company. 

Van Fleet said the award will help clear the way for approval for the first phase of human clinical trials. It will also jumpstart the effort to raise more capital for further development of the drug.

“These efforts will not only boost our commercialization endeavor, moving decades of laboratory research findings to bedside application,” Van Fleet said, “but further galvanize our translational research to realize the ultimate goal of establishing effective treatment to battle neuropathic pain in spinal cord injury, a condition currently with no established effective treatments.”

Van Fleet said the drug promises to relieve suffering by focusing on an important cause of pain—a toxic compound that increases after injury and activates important pain triggers. He said the drug will “lower pain and protect neurons” by reducing the presence of that compound. 

He said this method is safer and more effective than current treatments. He noted that 75% of current spinal cord injury patients consider existing pain therapies “inadequate.” 

“Our approach offers a novel, more  effective strategy to address this unmet medical need,” Van Fleet said. 

The work of Neuro Vigor is largely based on the findings of Riyi Shi, the Mari Hulman George Endowed Professor of Applied Neuroscience at Purdue University. He is also director of the Center for Paralysis Research in the College of Veterinary Medicine in addition to being a biomedical engineering professor.

Shi said he is looking forward to the work ahead with Neuro Vigor.

““It is an incredible honor to be recognized for our efforts to bring meaningful research out of the lab and into the clinic,” Shi said in a press release. “These advances benefit not only Purdue and the scientific arena, but most importantly patients.”

Neuro Vigor hopes to take its research beyond spinal cord injuries.

“Our first goal is to demonstrate that our drug is a clearly more effective and safer therapy to treat pain in spinal cord injury patients,” Van Fleet said. “Demonstrating success in this area will lay the foundation for the use of our innovative approach to reduce pain in neuro-degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis.”


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