Tonix inks Inserm pact to expand nasal oxytocin delivery R&D

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French research institute Inserm signed a deal with Tonix Pharmaceuticals. (SimonLukas/Getty Images)

Tonix Pharmaceuticals has licensed oxytocin-based therapeutic technology for the treatment of rare genetic disorder Prader-Willi syndrome. The agreement with French research institute Inserm continues Tonix’s push to expand the use of its nasal oxytocin delivery capabilities. 

Last year, Tonix bought a potentiated oxytocin program from Trigemina, picking up licenses to certain Stanford University technologies in the process, and went on to secure additional licenses from the University of Geneva. The Geneva licenses positioned Tonix to move beyond its initial focus on central nervous system disorders and explore the cardiometabolic applications of nasal delivery. 

Now, Tonix has opened up another avenue for its nasal oxytocin delivery program. The co-exclusive license secured from Inserm clears Tonix to explore the use of nasal potentiated oxytocin in patients with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes physical symptoms such as obesity as well as learning difficulties and behavioral problems.

Tonix’s interest in the indication is underpinned by evidence oxytocin improves suckling in newborn animals and suppresses feeding behaviors in adult animal models. The findings suggest the drug may address two of the main challenges faced by people with Prader-Willi syndrome.

In infants, Prader-Willi syndrome can cause a lack of suckling that leads to malnutrition. Conversely, in older children and adults the syndrome is associated with an insatiable hunger that leads to severe obesity. Tonix said its formulation may boost specificity for oxytocin receptors relative to vasopressin receptors and enhance the potency of oxytocin, although it is still a long way from the market.

The co-exclusive license sets Tonix up to generate more data on the mechanism. If the program is successful, Tonix expects patent protection through to 2031, with the potential for mechanisms in the U.S. and Europe to extend its monopoly beyond that date.