We have all been here: A very nice patient sits in the chair. She is desperately trying not to scratch. A stack of papers on the table is filled with laboratory results and urine tests. Next to that is a plastic bag filled topical products that have failed. She’s asking for your help to give her relief. As a dermatologist, these patients break my heart.
Chronic pruritus, defined as itch lasting greater than six weeks, affects approximately 15% of the population and is highly debilitating. Although chronic itch can present in the context of a variety of inflammatory skin disorders, as well as other medical conditions like kidney and liver failure, it commonly arises independently of any defined cause. In this setting, it is referred to as chronic pruritus of unknown origin (CPUO), which accounts for up to 40% of individuals with chronic itch. Strikingly, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat CPUO and most other chronic itch disorders. Thus, there is an urgent need for innovation in this space to develop novel anti-itch therapies.
SPOTLIGHT ON NUOGEN PHARMA
Nuogen Pharma, Inc., is an early stage biopharmaceutical company co-founded by Duke Leahey, CEO, and Brian S. Kim, M.D, CSO, based on key discoveries from Dr. Kim’s laboratory at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Nuogen Pharma’s mission is to deliver the first FDA-approved anti-itch medication for CPUO and other chronic itch conditions.
Dr. Kim and Mr. Leahey met in 2015 through a mutual colleague who was aware of the high-impact research underway in the Kim Lab. Building upon the discovery that inhibition of Janus kinases in sensory neurons potently treats itch, published in Cell in 2017, a patent was led for the use of JAK inhibitors for chronic itch.