Epilepsy is a chronic and highly prevalent neurological disorder that affects millions of people world-wide and has serious consequences for the life of the affected individual. A first-line approach to the control of epilepsy is through the administration of anticonvulsant drugs. Repeated, uncontrolled seizures and the side effects arising from seizure medications have a negative effect on the developing brain and can lead to brain cell loss and severe impairment of neurocognitive function. The continued occurrence of seizure activity also increases the probability of subsequent epileptic events through sensitization mechanisms called seizure kindling. Seizures that are unresponsive to anti-epileptic treatments are life-disrupting and life-threatening with broad health, life, and economic consequences.
Like many diseases, epilepsy is still remarkably underserved by currently available medicines. Pharmaco-resistance to anticonvulsant therapy continues to be one of the key obstacles to the treatment of epilepsy. Although many anticonvulsant drugs are approved to decrease seizure probability, seizures are not fully controlled and patients are generally maintained daily on multiple antiepileptic drugs with the hope of enhancing the probability of seizure control. Despite this polypharmacy approach, as many as 60 to 70% of patients continue to have seizures. As a result of the lack of seizure control, pharmaco-resistant epilepsy patients, including young children, sometimes require and elect to have invasive therapeutic procedures such as surgical resection or disconnection.
Despite the availability of a host of marketed drugs of different mechanistic classes, the lack of seizure control in patients is the primary factor driving the need for improved antiepileptic drugs emphasized by researchers and patient advocacy communities. Increasing inhibitory tone in the central nervous system through enhancement of GABAergic inhibition is a proven mechanism for seizure control. However, GABAergic medications also exhibit liabilities that limit their antiepileptic potential. Tolerance develops to GABAergic drugs such as BDZs, limiting their use in a chronic setting. These drugs can produce cognitive impairment, somnolence, sedation, tolerance and withdrawal seizures that create dosing limitations such that they are generally used only for acute convulsive episodes.
KRM-II-81 has demonstrated efficacy in multiple rodent models and measures of antiepileptic drug efficacy in vivo. This includes 9 acute seizure provocation models in mice and rats, 4 seizure sensitization models in rats and mice, 2 models of chronic epilepsy, and 3 models specifically testing pharmaco-resistant antiepileptic drug efficacy. Because it appears to have a greatly reduced side effect liability, it might be possible to use higher, more effective doses that standard of care medications. Predictions of superior efficacy of KRM-II-81 over standard of care anti-epileptics comes from the efficacy of this compound across a broad range of epileptic modeling conditions. Importantly, KRM-II-81 has been shown to be effective in models assessing pharmaco-resistant epilepsy. Under these conditions, KRM-II-81 is efficacious in cases where standard of care medicines do not work.
In the absence of seizure control by anti-epileptics, surgical resection of affected brain tissue and associated neural circuits is one potential alternative to help with the control of seizures. In the process of this surgery, epileptic brain tissue can become available for research into epileptic mechanisms and the identification of novel antiepileptic drugs. In an elegant translational study, the anticonvulsant action of KRM-II-81 was confirmed by microelectrode recordings from slices obtained from freshly excised cortex from epileptic patients where KRM-II-81 suppressed epileptiform electrical activity ex vivo. While preliminary, these translational data lend considerable support to the further development of KRM-II-81 for the treatment of epilepsy.