Saniona’s Kv7 channel activator programs are in the late stage drug discovery. The programs focus on developing effective new treatments for neurological diseases, such as treatment-resistant partial epilepsy, and various pain disorders. Furthermore, Saniona has demonstrated that Kv7 channel activators are also highly efficacious for relaxation of overactive bladder smooth muscle cells, a characteristic of urinary incontinence (UI). Therefore, one of our Kv7 channel activator programs aims at finding new treatment options for patients suffering from UI, which currently is not optimally treated, and Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS), which is without any dedicated treatment options.
The Kv7 family of potassium channels is composed of five members (Kv7.1-5). Kv7.2-5 are expressed in many neurons where they give rise to voltage-dependent potassium currents with slow activation kinetics, no inactivation upon depolarization, and a complex modulation by various neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine via muscarinic receptors, which is why these channels are called M-currents. The M-current contributes to setting the neuronal resting membrane potential and has a strong influence on membrane excitability by acting as a brake and limiting neuronal firing frequency. Known mutations in the Kv7 subunits are involved in human pathologies, such as long QT syndrome (Kv7.1), epilepsy (Kv7.2 and Kv7.3), and deafness (Kv7.4), which highlight the involvement of these channels in a variety of physiological functions. Lately, Kv7.4 and Kv7.5 channels have also been implicated in regulation of smooth muscle function, where they contribute to setting the contractile state of these cells. Thus, the Kv7 family offers a unique target for the treatment of a broad range of severe pathologies.