The University of Western Australia has entered into an exclusive agreement with healthcare technology and drug development company Emyria to investigate the therapeutic potential of compounds similar to the drug MDMA (‘ecstasy’).
Emyria has secured the rights to a UWA library of more than 100 novel MDMA analogues (compounds), which were created in the research group of UWA medicinal chemist Associate Professor Matt Piggott, with an initial focus on drug discovery for Parkinson’s disease.
On the back of a worldwide resurgence in psychedelic medicine, MDMA has recently undergone successful clinical trials for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Emyria’s managing director Dr Michael Winlo said that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is demonstrating “huge potential” in treating severe PTSD, and the company is actively working to develop a safe and scalable delivery model for this therapy in Australia.
With careful guidance, MDMA allows PTSD patients to open up and address distressing memories, facilitating recovery. However, the drug has a long duration of action and side-effects that make it non-ideal for psychotherapy.
Under the agreement, Emyria will contribute $491,000 over 12 months to support screening of the current series of UWA MDMA analogues to better understand their effects in the brain, which will give insight into their therapeutic potential. Novel compounds will also be designed and synthesised to expand the library.
The analogues are similar to MDMA but subtle modifications to their chemical structure change the profile of neurological targets they impact, resulting in different pharmacological activity.
“I’m delighted to be working with Emyria to investigate the therapeutic potential of our MDMA analogues. The company has the resources to accelerate the development of drug candidates and demonstrated capacity to register neurological treatments that improve patient wellbeing,” Dr Piggott said.
“With this exclusive agreement, Emyria has now added a unique drug discovery pipeline, which complements our existing programs, and which leverages years of research and development by Dr Piggott and his team,” Dr Winlo said.
“It creates an opportunity for Emyria to lead the development of the next generation of MDMA-like compounds so they may become registered treatments for patients with major psychiatric and neurological disorders.”