A Non-Addictive Painkiller
Phoenix PharmaLabs is addressing the opioid crisis by developing safe, non-addictive pain killers.
Its lead drug, “PPL-103,” has demonstrated in animal studies to be 10x more potent than morphine, and non-addictive. Furthermore, it doesn't produce symptoms of withdrawal or cause death in the event of overdose. It’s also demonstrated effectiveness in treating opioid and cocaine addictions.
Phoenix PharmaLabs has been awarded roughly $3 million in grant funding by the U.S. Army and National Institutes of Health. It’s also raised over $3 million in private capital. These funds are enabling the company to advance PPL-103 into human clinical trials.
Most recently, Phoenix PharmaLabs acquired a collection of compounds from the University of Bath, including one that met all of the company’s criteria for a potent, non-addictive analgesic. This compound, which the company has renamed “PPL-138,” has proven to be effective at treating moderate to severe pain.
Phoenix PharmaLabs is seeking additional capital to further test both PPL-103 and PPL-138.
There is a significant need for non-addictive potent pain relief.
Currently, opioids are the mostly widely prescribed option to treat pain. According to Grand View Research, the global opioids market is projected to reach nearly $30 billion by 2026.
The problem is that addiction to opioids is a major public health problem. In fact, it’s been declared a national emergency in the U.S., and become a global epidemic.
Addiction to opioids kills nearly 50,000 Americans each year, and costs the U.S. economy nearly $700 billion a year, according to the Council of Economic Advisers.
What makes opioids so addictive is the way the drug impacts the brain. You see, all current opioid drugs bind to the “mu” receptor in the brain. Then they aggressively stimulate that receptor. Activation of that receptor produces a euphoric “high” feeling, which is what leads to abuse and addiction. It also causes side effects that include risk of death from overdose.
Both PPL-103 and PPL-138 work differently. Most importantly, both compounds have demonstrated in various animal studies that they do not produce euphoria and will not lead to addiction. (Research has shown an extremely high correlation between these animal studies and the drugs’ potential for abuse and addiction in humans.)
PPL-103 binds strongly to three different receptors in the brain (mu, kappa, and delta). It then partially stimulates those receptors in a more balanced manner. Specifically, PPL-103 stimulates the mu receptor at roughly 20% of the level as standard opioids, and creates slightly higher, but not full, stimulation of kappa and delta.
This partial stimulation creates analgesic benefit from all three receptors. But it’s not sufficiently strong to produce the serious side effects associated with opioids.
PPL-138, on the other hand, uses a different mechanism of action. It partially stimulates the mu receptor, as well as the Nociceptin, or “NOP,” receptors. These receptors initiate brain activity function, including pain sensation.
As mentioned, Phoenix PharmaLabs is advancing both compounds through pre-clinical studies, then on to proof-of-concept studies in humans. At that point — roughly three years — the company plans to license the compounds to one or more pharmaceutical companies. It plans to license PPL-103 as a treatment for acute pain, and license PPL-138 for chronic pain.
Phoenix PharmaLabs was awarded a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command (USAMRMC). And that money is currently funding the advancement of PPL-103 into human clinical trials. The company has “strong support” from scientists at the USAMRMC, as well as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
It’s also received a $185,000 grant from the NIH/NIDA to study PPL-103 for potential use as a cocaine addiction medication. The compound has already demonstrated its effectiveness at blocking relapse from cocaine addiction in rodents. And notably, there are no current medications that are effective at treating cocaine addiction.
To fund the advancement of its recently-acquired PPL-138 compound, Phoenix PharmaLabs is applying for additional grants, and raising capital from individual investors. (This company previously conducted an equity crowdfunding campaign in March 2019, and reached maximum funding.)
Phoenix PharmaLabs has strong patent protection for its compounds. The company was issued a U.S. patent for PPL-103 in 2015. And a patent for all of the compounds licensed from the University of Bath, including PPL-138, was issued in the U.S. in May 2018. Phoenix PharmaLabs acquired the exclusive rights to these patents in July 2020.
Bill has experience as CEO and other senior management positions working at startups and Fortune 100 companies.
He's helped numerous early-stage companies refine their business strategies, commercialize new products, raise capital, and license technologies.
Bill earned a Bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and an MBA from University of California-Berkeley.
Dr. John Lawson is an expert in medicinal and synthetic organic chemistry.
For 20 years, he was a medicinal chemist and project manager at Stanford Research Institute. While there, he headed the Neurochemistry Research & Development group, focusing on developing new compounds in neuroscience including analgesics and stroke therapeutics.
Also while with Stanford Research Institute, John discovered the initial class of opioids capable of relieving pain without dangerous side effects.
He earned a Bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
Dr. Lawrence Toll is recognized as an expert and leading researcher in the field of neuroscience, specifically in relation to drugs with potential addictive properties such as opioids.
He's published more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers and worked alongside Dr. Lawson at the Stanford Research Institute.
Dr. Toll was formerly Director of Neuropharmacology at the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, and President of the International Narcotics Research Conference.
In addition, he was a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Florida Atlantic University.
He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of California, San Diego and a Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry from UCLA. In addition, he completed postdoctoral research at UCLA and Johns Hopkins University.
Prior to Phoenix, Timmy founded Spectra Consulting Group, a company offering advice on areas including strategic planning and capital acquisition. He worked at Spectra for more than 25 years.
In addition to his duties with Phoenix, he sits on the Board of Directors for multiple companies, focusing on developing strategies for early-stage businesses.
Chris has more than 25 years of experience in bioscience sales, marketing, and business development.
He was a marketing executive for medical companies including American Hospital Supply, CooperVision, and Alcon.
Throughout his career, Chris has championed many successful sales and product initiatives. In addition, he co-founded HealthWare Management Company, a healthcare software company acquired by Global Software.
He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from BYU.