Many common diseases still lack effective and/or curative treatments, and sometimes the only option is to “manage” the condition. It is also common that many patients use many treatments to manage a condition to improve the quality of life, even if the treatment is not clinically-proven.
Our group undertakes challenges that are outside the box, employ outside the box thinking, many times very risky, and employ our expertise bringing together the disease and innovative solutions grounded in medicinal chemistry to improve the quality of life for the patients. More importantly, we know that it cannot be achieved without extensive collaboration with experts, and we cherish our extensive collaborative network in advancing the solutions to the clinic.
One such condition is neurodegeneration, due to multiple sclerosis (MS) or neuropathy. In MS, the immune system attacks the central nervous system, progressively disabling the patient. Neuropathy – caused by diabetes, chemotherapy or another condition – reduces sensation in the limbs, affecting a patient’s quality of life. Current treatments may slow disease progression and manage symptoms, but repairing the neuronal damage would reverse and potentially cure these conditions.
The Multi-Organ Transplant Clinic at University Health Network (UHN) undertakes the highest number of transplants in North America, and the Kotra group works closely with the clinicians tackling important transplant-related health challenges, including infections such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), hepatosteatosis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Such clinical conditions significantly lower the quality of life for transplant recipients.
Often, a potential treatment may exist, but it’s not fully understood. For example, medical cannabis seems to be effective for certain conditions but lacks scientific evidence about the mechanisms of action, since it has not been studied as rigorously as traditional drugs. In addition, there is a large volume of anecdotal and misinformation about this substance as a medicine.
Some active research projects in the group are:
Drugs targeting neurodegenerative conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetic neuropathy
Inhibitors targeting thrombocytopenia (ITP and related blood disorders)
Novel classes of antimalarial agents (ODCase inhibitors, falcipain-2 inhibitors)
Antiviral agents for HCMV and BK Viruses
Bud-To-Bed Investigations on medical cannabis
Solutions in Our (Kotra research group) Lifetime...
Under the auspices of Krembil Research Institute, University Health Network and Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at University of Toronto, Kotra’s team uses target-based drug discovery and medicinal chemistry to discover novel antivirals for clinical applications.
Kotra’s team is working on developing effective drugs for a number of diseases, combining principles from medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, drug design, pharmacology and disease pathology to evaluate the effectiveness and investigate the molecular basis of action for several drug candidates. We are also teasing out the benefits of medical cannabis, studying the composition of various strains of medical cannabis and actively investigating its relevance to treatment of various neuro and inflammatory conditions. We are humbled to say that we are among the leading groups in Canada working to uncover the medicinal chemistry of cannabis and lead clinical studies of its use.
Our research group is studying ways to prevent progression of MS, and repair and reverse neuronal damage, with the goal of bringing the treatment to patients. With a very productive collaborative network in Toronto and in Canada, we are advancing the lead compound for potential clinical studies.
We have also collaborated with other teams to develop a groundbreaking compound to potentially cure diabetic neuropathy, now in clinical trials.
Research conducted by the Kotra lab has led to the discovery of numerous technologies that have since been licensed to companies. Our ultimate goal is to bring research-backed and evidence-based solutions to patients as soon as possible.
Kotra group discovered a potent antimalarial agent currently in advanced preclinical development, identified novel compounds targeting multiple sclerosis that are in preclinical development, successfully co-developed a cream for diabetic neuropathy that is currently undergoing phase 1 and 2 clinical trials, and worked with industry in implementing novel cannabis extraction technology for the development of medically relevant products.
Our discoveries and technology are licensed to companies, including WinSanTor Biosciences, CannScience Innovations, Inc. (now Scientus Pharma, Inc.) and CIDAVA Innovations (2013-2017), to successfully advance the development of technologies and discoveries. These technologies are implemented in industrial production, and the discoveries are reaching the market.