UK life sciences firm Cypralis has been awarded new funding by Innovate UK to take forward its work on cyclophilin D inhibitors targeting degenerative diseases.

The company is working on the generation of new inhibitors of cyclophilin D that could be used for targeting degenerative diseases such as pancreatitis, ischaemias and CNS degeneration.

A feasibility study, completed by Cypralis and collaborators at the University of Liverpool in October last year, showed that the firm's inhibitors are highly protective against pancreatic cell death resulting from bile acids, one of the two main causes of acute pancreatitis.

The next phase in the programme is an early stage study - undertaken in collaboration with Professor Robert Sutton at the University of Liverpool and with sub-contractors including Selcia Ltd, Hypha Discovery and Aptuit - which is due to start imminently.

This aims to expand the body of pharmacological evidence supporting the role of cyclophilin inhibition in acute pancreatitis, the firm noted.

Cypralis has been awarded an early stage grant of £457,000 to help advance the programme from The Biomedical Catalyst (BMC), a unique partnership between the MRC and Innovate UK that provides responsive and effective support to the most innovative life sciences opportunities.

"This further support from Innovate UK will enable Cypralis to select and progress one of our potent cyclophilin inhibitors through early preclinical development and towards Clinical Trial Application filing during 2018," said Simon Kerr, Cypralis' chief executive.

There are over 450,000 hospital admissions in total from the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the USA every year, due to acute pancreatitis, an extremely painful disease that is most often associated with gallstones, excessive alcohol intake and obesity.

"The development of an effective drug for acute pancreatitis would have a transformational impact on the management of this common and serious disease for which there are currently no specific therapies," said Professor Robert Sutton, director of the NIHR Pancreas Biomedical Research Unit.