University of Arizona College of Nursing Associate Professor Helena Morrison, PhD, RN has partnered with NuvOx Pharma, a Tucson based biotechnology company, to investigate the drug NanO2TM as a stroke therapy for those with ischemic stroke. Dr. Morrison, co-Principal Investigator, and NuvOx President and CEO Dr. Evan Unger’s project is funded by a $478,000 NIH Phase I STTR grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
The STTR grant will help the team fund mechanistic studies of NanO2TM, in pre-clinical models of stroke with clinically relevant comorbidities, such as age and diabetes. NanO2TM is being developed as a cerebroprotectant in stroke intended to protect the tissues in the brain by maintaining oxygen levels. The preclinical study, which is slated to last one year, will take place in a laboratory setting.
“We hope that NanO2 will be a drug that will successfully provide additional oxygen to parts of the brain region that are at risk, but not yet dead. We hope to provide a much-needed stroke therapy to the stroke population," ~ Helena Morrison, PhD, RN
The benefits for those with ischemic stroke could be substantial. “There is a saying that the American Heart and Stroke Association has adapted from Ben Franklin, ‘Time is Brain,’” Dr. Morrison says, referencing the famous ‘Time is Money’ aphorism. “This means that the more time that the brain does without oxygen, the more damage is done to the brain. We hope that NanO2 will be a drug that will successfully provide additional oxygen to parts of the brain region that are at risk, but not yet dead. We hope to provide a much-needed stroke therapy to the stroke population.”
Drs. Morrison and Unger hypothesize that the compromised brain tissue will be smaller in a preclinical cohort that receives the NanO2 treatment when compared to the cohort that will not receive the treatment. “In this case, the preclinical model is one of temporary ischemia, meaning that we model not just ischemic stroke but also the reperfusion, or reestablishment of blood flow, that could occur due to pharmacological or surgical interventions,” Dr. Morrison says. “Previous studies have examined the effect of this drug with ischemic stroke without reperfusion and these investigators illustrated a positive effect, meaning that the brain injury was decreased.”
Dr. Morrison joined the study after UArizona Nursing colleague Leslie Ritter, PhD, RN, FAAN, recommended her to Dr. Unger because of her substantial experience and skills with the pre-clinical model necessary for the study. As Co-PI, Dr. Morrison will handle the nuts and bolts of the study, partnering with NuvOx to shape the study design and the drug supply. The bulk of the clinical work will take place in the Morrison Lab located at UArizona Nursing.