Over a 15-year period, three scientific discoveries were made that changed the medical world’s understanding of the role the pannexin-1 protein channel plays in opioid withdrawal, stroke recovery, and chronic pain. These discoveries were led by three researchers from the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary: Dr. Tuan Trang, Dr. Roger Thompson, and Dr. Darren Derksen. With each discovery leading into the next, there grew a need for a way to bring these potentially life-changing treatments to the patients that need them most. This would lead to the creation of AphioTx. 

In 2006, Dr. Thompson, a neuroscientist and molecular biologist, made a pivotal discovery into the role pannexin-1 (a protein channel on the surface of cells in the brain and spinal cord) plays in relation to stroke recovery. This research demonstrated the potential to better protect neurons during and after a stroke, leading to faster recovery from strokes with less loss of normal functioning in animal models. The original understanding around the mechanisms of stroke recovery were fundamentally changed by this discovery introducing the role of pannexin-1, and it would set the stage for further related discoveries. Dr. Thompson is a Professor at the University of Calgary and his research is focused on the importance of pannexin-1 channels, stroke, and other neurological conditions. 

Dr. Trang, an expert in physiology and pharmacology, would build on this research and discover the critical role pannexin-1 channels play in treating opioid withdrawal and chronic pain. He and his team discovered an effective non-opioid treatment that provided a safe alternative to alleviating opioid withdrawal symptoms. This research would be published in leading medical journals, indicating an encouraging treatment for the millions of people worldwide suffering with opioid use disorder and dependence. Dr. Trang is an Associate Professor at the University of Calgary, where he leads a pain and opioid research lab.  

Both of these scientific developments demonstrated the need for a more potent compound that selectively inhibits the responses of the pannexin-1 channel. Dr. Derksen, an organic and medicinal chemist, then led the team in developing new compounds. This would enable the development of treatments with a specific goal to target and inhibit the pannexin-1 channel, providing novel leads for developing these inhibitors. Dr. Derksen is an Associate Professor at the University of Calgary and his research is creating new compounds with improved properties to treat a variety of medical conditions.  

AphioTx grew out of a need for a way to translate these pivotal discoveries into treatments. Starting with Dr. Trang’s research into opioid withdrawal, the company is working to develop this potentially life-changing science into a reality for the patients that need them most. With a combined 50+ years of research excellence, AphioTx’s scientific founders have established the foundations for a leading pharmaceutical development company with the potential to help millions worldwide.  

Click here to read more on our development pipeline, and here to read more about each of the founders