OKLAHOMA CITY, July 7, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --Moleculera Labs today announced the receipt of a two-year, $300,000 matching grant from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). This grant supports the development and clinical validation of new diagnostic testing panels to identify autoantibodies directed against neuronal antigens in patients experiencing neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Such panels are intended to assist physicians in identifying the subset of patients whose symptoms may actually be caused by underlying treatable infection-triggered autoimmune and inflammatory responses.
"This new grant supports work expanding our successful efforts in developing additional assays to assist clinicians in diagnosing PANS and PANDAS, treatable neurologic conditions in children that manifest as obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), motor tics, separation anxiety and other behavioral disorders," said Craig Shimasaki. Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Moleculera. "PANDAS and PANS have underlying autoimmune and often inflammatory responses in the brain that are triggered by infectious agents such as Streptococcus."
Research by Madeleine Cunningham, Ph.D., Moleculera's co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, and her collaborators has led to development of the Cunningham Panel™, which measures relevant anti-neuronal antibodies and neuronal cell-activating antibodies circulating in the patient's blood, as well as the activity of a key enzyme in the brain involved in the up-regulation of many neurotransmitters including dopamine. This test panel aids physicians in identifying individuals with PANDAS or PANS, thus enabling those children to receive appropriate anti-infective and/or immunological treatment that often results in a dramatic reduction or resolution of symptoms, without resorting to symptomatic control with neuropsychiatric drugs alone.
Dr. Shimasaki continued, "Research by Moleculera and others suggest that a portion of patients with conditions such as chronic depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders may also be triggered by neuronal autoimmune responses and inflammation in the brain. If correctly identified, such patients could be treated with immune modulation therapies rather than psychiatric treatments alone, thus addressing an underlying cause of their disorder to improve their recovery and quality of life. In other related fields, there is increasing evidence of a link between infectious agents and/or imbalances in the gut microbiota and a range of behavioral abnormalities and mood disorders. So it would not be unprecedented to discover that other infection-triggered autoimmune conditions may result in a portion of the common neuropsychiatric conditions we have today."
Moleculera Labs is accredited by CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment) and COLA (Commission on Laboratory Accreditation) and is currently the only clinical laboratory performing the Cunningham Panel™. The company is licensed to accept physician's orders from 49 states in the United States, with a license application pending in New York State, and also conducts testing for institutions both within the United States and globally.
"Moleculera Labs is an example of the ground-breaking bioscience research being performed by Oklahoma companies, universities and clinical institutions," said Michael Carolina, Executive Director of OCAST. "We are pleased to be able to help provide critical early support for this kind of research."
About Moleculera Labs
Moleculera Labs is a privately owned company whose objective is to discover and deliver advanced testing services for children and adults suffering from treatable autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders. The company's initial offering is the Cunningham Panel™, a set of tests aimed at assisting clinicians in the diagnosis of PANDAS and PANS, conditions associated with motor tics, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and sometimes Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), that researchers believe to be caused by a harmful autoimmune response triggered by common infections. Moleculera Labs is based at the University of Oklahoma (OU) Research Park in Oklahoma City and operates a full CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment) and COLA (Commission on Laboratory Accreditation) certified clinical laboratory where it performs the Cunningham Panel™ for physicians and clinicians throughout the United States and globally. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.moleculera.com.