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Moleculera Labs receives grant from OCAST to develop assays

Moleculera Labs announced the receipt of a two-year, $300,000 matching grant from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).

This grant supports the development and clinical validation of new diagnostic testing panels to identify autoantibodies directed against neuronal antigens in patients experiencing neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Such panels are intended to assist physicians in identifying the subset of patients whose symptoms may actually be caused by underlying treatable infection-triggered autoimmune and inflammatory responses.

"This new grant supports work expanding our successful efforts in developing additional assays to assist clinicians in diagnosing PANS and PANDAS, treatable neurologic conditions in children that manifest as obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), motor tics, separation anxiety and other behavioral disorders," said Craig Shimasaki. Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Moleculera.

"PANDAS and PANS have underlying autoimmune and often inflammatory responses in the brain that are triggered by infectious agents such as Streptococcus."

Research by Madeleine Cunningham, Ph.D., Moleculera’s co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, and her collaborators has led to development of the Cunningham Panel, which measures relevant anti-neuronal antibodies and neuronal cell-activating antibodies circulating in the patient’s blood, as well as the activity of a key enzyme in the brain involved in the up-regulation of many neurotransmitters including dopamine.

This test panel aids physicians in identifying individuals with PANDAS or PANS, thus enabling those children to receive appropriate anti-infective and/or immunological treatment that often results in a dramatic reduction or resolution of symptoms, without resorting to symptomatic control with neuropsychiatric drugs alone.

Dr. Shimasaki continued, "Research by Moleculera and others suggest that a portion of patients with conditions such as chronic depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders may also be triggered by neuronal autoimmune responses and inflammation in the brain."