This past week, the Boston Globe profiled MJFF awardee Civitas Therapeutics, a Chelsea, Massachusetts based pharmaceutical company that is working to develop a therapy to address the challenges in how levodopa, the gold standard therapy for Parkinson's disease (PD), is delivered into the body. Many patients who take the drug experience “off" periods, when the effects of the medication wear off before they are ready to take their next dose, leaving them in a state where symptoms like lack of mobility may return. Finding a more consistent method of delivering levodopa could help to minimize these periods, and is therefore one of the critical unmet needs for those living with PD.
To date, the practical way that the drug has been absorbed is in pill form. Civitas, however, is studying an inhaled formulation of levodopa for its potential to produce more rapid and continual relief from the debilitating motor fluctuations that are associated with Parkinson's.
The Globe’s story highlights how, in January of 2011, Civitas was launched as an independent spin-out from a company called Alkermes that was already working to develop a new way to deliver drugs into the lungs through an inhaler. Insulin, human growth hormone, and osteoporosis drugs were among Alkermes’ early targets. Civitas founders Glenn Batchelder and Martin Freed believed that the inhaler might have a positive impact on PD, in that it could deliver levodopa more quickly than pills, which could in turn help to limit these off periods that are associated with taking the drug.
Civitas is in the initial stages of clinical assessment of their drug candidate, called CVT-301. Today, they announced early results showing that a sufficient amount of the compound was found in the blood plasma of patients when inhaled into the lungs. They also reported that the doses administered to trial participants were safe.