Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP) portfolio company receives $11M NIDA grant

LSU Health Shreveport scientist’s drug moving closer to the marketplace

EAP portfolio company Embera NeuroTherapeutics, Inc., headquartered in Shreveport, has been awarded a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant in the amount of $11.1 million.

Embera’s EMB-001 is a novel candidate for the treatment of cocaine, nicotine and other addictions based on the discoveries of Dr. Nicholas Goeders, an LSU Health Shreveport professor, and licensed by LSU Health Shreveport exclusively to Embera.

The three-year grant from NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will support continued clinical development, moving the drug through Phase 2 clinical trials and closer to the marketplace.

“We are delighted to receive this positive validation and support from NIDA for EMB-001, the leading product in clinical development for cocaine use disorder, for which there are currently no FDA-approved medications,” said Robert Linke, Chief Executive Officer of Embera.

“A culmination of about 30 years of research, Embera is an example of what supporting an ecosystem of startup business and biomedical research at LSU Health can yield,” said Dave Smith, Executive Director of Biomedical Research Foundation’s (BRF) Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program, which helped ready the company for investment.

Embera has received financial backing from private investors from around the U.S. as well as accredited local investors with the New Louisiana Angel Fund 1 (NLAF1).

“With the help of EAP and local investors such as Ross Barrett, Chairman of the Embera Board of Directors, we are advancing this LSU-licensed technology and moving toward our goal of commercializing ongoing research in Shreveport by bridging the gap between the business and medical research worlds,” said John F. George, M.D., President and CEO of BRF. “The beauty of this story is the sophisticated ecosystem being developed to get outstanding local researchers and entrepreneurs to this point. This is a proud moment for our community.”

In 2014, the U.S. had 1.5 million current cocaine users aged 12 or older. Despite this, no approved medications exist for the treatment of cocaine use disorder. A patented combination of the FDA-approved drugs metyrapone and oxazepam, EMB-001 targets the stress response system as a novel approach to addressing addiction and relapse.

“We have seen encouraging results in a pilot study of EMB-001 in cocaine-dependent patients and, with this support, we are excited to continue the advancement of our lead candidate through a Phase 2 proof-of-concept efficacy study,” said Barrett.

Should Embera become successful in the marketplace, millions of dollars could return to LSU Health Shreveport.

Embera NeuroTherapeutics, Inc. is one of three life science companies originating from LSU Health Shreveport faculty researchers in various phases of moving to the marketplace under the guidance of EAP. Others are drug repurposing company Segue Therapeutics, and Innolyzer, a biotechnology company that won the Louisiana Startup Prize in 2015.

EAP is a partnership between the BRF, the Caddo Parish Commission and the City of Shreveport that began operating in 2015. Since this time EAP has provided services to 110 companies and created 76 jobs. EAP portfolio companies are headquartered in Caddo Parish and have received a total of $40 million in funding and other capital investment from north Louisiana and around the United States.

About EAP
Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program provides a suite of services to build sustainable and profitable companies. EAP analyzes the viability of ideas and products, matches them with informed investors and nurtures them through the critical steps toward market. EAP stimulates economic development in Caddo Parish and enhances the regional innovation entrepreneurial ecosystem of North Louisiana. EAP is an entity housed under the Biomedical Research Foundation.

About EMB-001
EMB-001 is a patented combination product comprising two FDA-approved medications, the cortisol synthesis inhibitor metyrapone and the benzodiazepine oxazepam. The innovation is based on insights into the physiologic responses to stress in addiction. EMB-001 is thought to act by mechanisms distinct from those of existing addiction treatments and is hypothesized to reduce the increased activity in the stress response system induced by cues that contribute to the acquisition and maintenance of addiction.
EMB-001 may potentially reduce the cravings and loss of control that drive addiction by uniquely targeting multiple pathways, thereby possibly maximizing potential efficacy as well as minimizing safety and tolerability concerns. Therapies that reduce cravings and relapse and thus result in long-term abstinence and recovery would be significant contributions to the treatment of a broad range of addictions.

About Embera NeuroTherapeutics
Embera NeuroTherapeutics, Inc. is a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company focused on treating a broad range of addictions where the major clinical challenge is a limited range of effective therapies. Embera is developing a novel drug combination (EMB-001) targeting specific brain functions related to stress responses that drive craving and relapse associated with these disorders. Embera is advancing EMB-001 development programs in cocaine use disorder and smoking cessation. www.emberaneuro.com

Note: The clinical research discussed here will be supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U01DA038879. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.