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Renovo on cutting edge of cure for MS

Multiple sclerosis results when axons -- an extension of brain cells -- lose an essential coating called myelin, which allows neurons to communicate with each other and other parts of the body. While there are drugs available to slow the progression of the disease -- which eventually leaves a person unable to move there is nothing on the market that can reverse the disease by restoring cells that produce the myelin.

If a Cleveland biomedical company has its way, there soon will be. Renovo Neural, a spinoff of the Cleveland Clinic, is currently helping pharmaceutical companies test new MS drugs by providing exclusive and innovative assays that analyze the potency of promising new drugs to reverse the MS process.

The company was formed in 2008 after the Cleveland Clinic received a $3-million Ohio Third Frontier grant to commercialize Renovo Neural's innovative assays. The technology is based on discoveries by Renovo Founder Bruce Trapp, chairman of the Clinic's Department of Neurosciences, and Wendy Macklin, former staff member at the Clinic's Department of Neurosciences and now professor and chair of cell and developmental biology at the University of Colorado. Trapp is now the company's chief science officer and heads its Scientific Advisory Board.

"We have two existing parts of the company," explains Satish Medicetty, Renovo's president. "In the service part of the company, we have very highly specialized assays to test new drugs for multiple sclerosis. This is the part of the company which is receiving a lot of interest in the industry right now because those are the kind of assays that are exclusively provided by our company."

The other part of the business -- the drug development arm -- is currently taking a back seat to the services side.

"We do have some intellectual property on the drug development side, so we are either looking for some licensing opportunities or partnering opportunities, or perhaps in the future if we get more funding from the state we will pursue that on a separate level as well," Medicetty says.

Renovo has just completed its first contract with a major client in tests designed to evaluate the process of generating new myelin in an animal model. 

"The client was very happy with the study and they came back to us to exend the study," Medicetty says.  Medicetty says the animail model -- which looks at MS-like brain lesions in animals -- is unique to Renovo.

The company has grown to seven full-time and two part-time employees from its initial two. Medicetty says because of interest shown by additional pharmaceutical companies, he expects that number to grow. 

Source: Statish Medicetty, Renovo Neural
Writer: Gene Monteith
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