SAN DIEGO, Sept. 15, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Afraxis Inc. announced today that it has won a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award from the National Institute on Aging to advance its big data phenotypic profiling platform for CNS drug discovery.
The Phase I six-month pilot aims to expand the capabilities of Afraxis' Enhanced Spine Profiling (ESP) – a patented platform that quantifies brain-wide synaptic structures (dendritic spines) and plasticity for drug discovery. The Afraxis platform provides rapid in vivo phenotypic CNS readouts that successfully identify hits and leads for commercial medicinal chemistry and SAR. In conjunction with this award, Afraxis is advancing solutions to overcome a critical bottleneck in late-phase preclinical discovery: large-scale CNS in vivo efficacy and toxicity evaluations.
Funding will support ESP-directed discovery efforts to investigate ketamine's antidepressant activities on brain-wide synaptic circuits. "Ketamine prompts rapid responses, within hours, by synaptic machinery and these effects are dose-dependent and distributed across brain regions," says Afraxis Chief Scientific Officer, Christopher Rex. "This system-level response cannot be replicated in isolated neurons. The ESP platform will allow us to test numerous conditions, doses, and timepoints in vivo well beyond anything previously available." Typical in vivo assays require many weeks or months with limited capacity for running parallel studies. The Phase I award alone will allow for a dramatic expansion in the number of compounds that can be feasibly screened and the diversity of brain regions analyzed, significantly reducing the time and resources required for in vivo CNS phenotyping. Ketamine and other reference compound "fingerprints" derived from synaptic circuit data will then be used to evaluate novel pro-cognitive therapeutic candidates.
Beyond this, ESP demonstrates remarkable reproducibility, resulting from a heavy focus on process standardization. At multiple points throughout the platform, Afraxis employs a human-cloud hybrid model (Distributed Expert Crowdsourced Image Analysis System), which streamlines and optimizes operator interactions with the experimental process. The funding will allow Afraxis to optimize these features along with sub-elements of the platform, including super-resolution microscopy, Artificial Intelligence (AI) neural network applications to image analysis, and high-dimensional statistical models.
About Afraxis Inc.
Afraxis Inc. is a contract research organization (CRO) specializing in:
CNS preclinical efficacy evaluations (in vivo & in vitro)
Afraxis' patented ESP (Enhanced Spine Profiling) technology produces rapid, high-information read-outs of synaptic networks from in-vivo/in-vitro/ex-vivo preparations. The ESP process incorporates specialized labeling of individual neurons; high-resolution imaging; rapid high-detail morphometry of individual cells, processes, and synapses; and powerful statistical methods and analytical displays tailored for efficient interpretation of large data sets.