University of Minnesota and start-up to develop antidote to cyanide poisoning

February 09, 2012

Cyanide poisoning is often fatal and typically affects victims of industrial accidents, terrorist attacks, or structural fires. Based on research conducted at the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota, startup Vytacera Pharma Inc. will develop and market Sulfanegen, a treatment for cyanide poisoning. Sulfanegen could be administered by first responders in the case of a mass casualty emergency, or to victims of smoke inhalation from a house fire.

Cyanide poisoning prevents the body from using oxygen. Hydrogen cyanide, a colorless gas, is released into the air when certain types of plastics and other household items burn. A victim who inhales too much experiences dizziness, rapid breathing, convulsions and respiratory failure. The key to survival for these victims is rapid and appropriate treatment, but current treatments require an intravenous injection by a medical professional and can require upward of 20 minutes to take effect.

"There is no effective cyanide antidote that can be administered rapidly," said Steve Patterson, co-inventor and associate director of the university's Center for Drug Design, where Sulfanegen was invented. "In the case of a mass casualty situation, the emergency responders wouldn't be able to treat most of the victims. Sulfanegen can be administered rapidly by intra-muscular injection, so emergency responders could treat people faster. And it takes far less skill to use an auto-injector than it does for an intravenous injection."

The antidote also functions as a prophylactic, and could protect firefighters or emergency personnel if taken prior to cyanide exposure.

"There is a critical need for better treatments for cyanide poisoning, ones that are more user-friendly," said Vit Lauermann, CEO of San Francisco Bay Area-based Vytacera. "Sulfanegen could be a big step toward fulfilling that need."

"We intend to move forward as rapidly as financing and regulations permit," added Jon S. Saxe, chair of Vytacera. "Our goal is to make this important advance available to those in need of it and to enable governments to be better prepared, which, ultimately, may help deter terrorism."

Sulfanegen will require FDA approval. The drug candidate has rapid approval potential under the FDA Animal Rule, which holds that only animal efficacy experiments and Phase I safety clinical trials are required for regulatory approval; the compound has already demonstrated safety and efficacy in several animal models.

Sulfanegen was invented by Patterson; Robert Vince, director of the Center for Drug Design; and Herbert Nagasawa, adjunct at the Center for Drug Design and adjunct professor of medicinal chemistry. The research was funded by the Center for Drug Design and the National Institutes of Health CounterACT (Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats) program, an effort involving a number of NIH institutes that enhances the nation's diagnostic and treatment response capabilities during a chemical emergency.

The technology was licensed exclusively to Vytacera by the university's Office for Technology Commercialization.
-end-


University of Minnesota

Related Cyanide Articles from Brightsurf:

Identifying biomolecule fragments in ionising radiation
In a new study published in EPJ D, researchers define for the first time the precise exact ranges in which positively and negatively charged fragments can be produced when living cells are bombarded with fast, heavy ions.

Environmental solutions to go global
New Australian technology that could fix some of the world's biggest environmental pollution problems -- oil spills, mercury pollution and fertiliser runoff -- will soon be available to global markets following the signing of a landmark partnership with Flinders University.

Life could have emerged from lakes with high phosphorus
Life as we know it requires phosphorus, and lots of it.

Chemists glimpse the fleeting 'transition state' of a reaction
Chemists at MIT, Argonne National Laboratory, and several other institutions have devised a technique that allows them to determine the structure of the transition state of a reaction by observing the products that result from the reaction.

New study looks to biological enzymes as source of hydrogen fuel
Research from the University of Illinois and the University of California, Davis has chemists one step closer to recreating nature's most efficient machinery for generating hydrogen gas.

New insights into the origin of life
A famous experiment in 1953 showed that amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, could have formed spontaneously under the atmospheric conditions of early Earth.

Airless worms: A new hope against drug-resistant parasites
Toronto scientists have uncovered a metabolic pathway that only exists in parasitic worms.

Cyanide compounds discovered in meteorites may hold clues to the origin of life
Compounds containing iron, cyanide, and carbon monoxide discovered in carbon-rich meteorites by a team of scientists at Boise State University and NASA may have helped power life on early Earth.

Natural plant defense genes provide clues to safener protection in grain sorghum
Weeds often emerge at the same time as vulnerable crop seedlings and sneak between plants as crops grow.

Detecting cyanide exposure
Cyanide exposure can happen occupationally or in low levels from inhaling cigarette smoke -- or from being poisoned by someone out to get you.

Read More: Cyanide News and Cyanide Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.