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Joint-pain treatment set for human trials after development by Levicept in Discovery Park in Sandwich

By Chris Price

A biotechnology company is beginning clinical trials of a new treatment for osteoarthritis and chronic pain developed in Kent.

Levicept has begun the first phase of testing a “neurotrophin receptor fusion protein” it created at its base in Discovery Park in Sandwich.

The LEVI-04 treatment, as it’s known, will be given to healthy volunteers and osteoarthritis patients at Hammersmith Medical Research in London.

Levicept has developed a protein designed to relieve joint pain. Stock picture

Levicept has developed a protein designed to relieve joint pain. Stock picture

If trials are successful, it could open up a market for joint-pain relief estimated to be worth more than $10 billion.

The concept aims to relieve pain without bringing on rapid progression of osteoarthritis, which is a side-effect of other forms of similar treatment.

Levicept chief executive Simon Westbrook invented the protein when he worked at Pfizer.

He acquired the rights and patented the project after the drugs giant announced it was closing its research facility in Sandwich in 2011, which has now become science-focused business estate Discovery Park.

He was able to continue his work after receiving venture capital funding and a £2.4 million grant from Innovate UK in 2014.

The vompany raised a further £10 million later that year with investors Advent and Glide to develop proof-of-concept leading to the first human clinical trials.

Mr Westbrook said: “We believe that LEVI-04 could provide a meaningful benefit for the billion patients with chronic pain worldwide, who have limited treatment options.”

He added studies show it “overcomes the shortcomings” of similar antibody treatments.

This offers “the same profound analgesia but without the negative effects”.

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