Icagen is preparing to take a crucial step toward development of a drug to treat epilepsy.

The company announced late Tuesday that it will launch a Phase I clinical trial in January. The drug candidate, which focuses on so-called ion channels, is called ICA-69673.

According to Icagen, the trial will focus on single doses given to healthy male volunteers. ICA-69673 is one of several potential drugs Icagen is developing to treat epilepsy and other neuro disorders.

More than 2.5 million people in the United States are afflicted with epilepsy, including as many as 200,000 new cases a year. In a statement, Icagen said as much as 40 percent of the patient population is “considered treatment resistant.”

The company added that in pre-clinical trials involving animal models ICA-69673 “has demonstrated broad efficacy” in addressing epilepsy and pain.

“We are pleased to initiate our Phase I development program for ICA-
69673,” said Greg Rigdon, Icagen’s vice president of new product development, in a statement. “Although there are several drugs on the market today for the treatment of epilepsy, many patients are not adequately treated with currently available therapies. By modulating a novel ion channel target, ICA-69673 has the potential to become an important additional therapeutic for the treatment of epilepsy and related disorders.”

Icagen is focused on ion channels in its drug development program. The company defines them as “membrane-bound cellular proteins that permit the flow of ions, including calcium, potassium, sodium, and chloride, into and out of cells.” These are found in all human cells and are involved in nerve transmission, muscle contraction and cellular secretion.

“Compounds that increase or decrease the flow of ions by selectively blocking or opening specific channels could aid in the treatment of many diseases,” Icagan says.

The company has a sickle cell drug in Phase II trial. The company also is working on atrial fibrillation, incontinence, memory, pain, inflammation and glaucoma.

Icagen: www.icagen.com