GalantosPharma GmbH was founded in 2005 by Alfred Maelicke (Mainz) and Ulrich Jordis (Vienna), both founders being long established scientists and experts on Galantamine, a plant alkaloid that is clinically proven to reduce cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In 2007, Dr Andreas Köpke joined the management as CBO, and in 2009 Dr. Titus Kaletta joined as Head of R&D.
In the late 1980ies and early 1990ies, when acting as Laboratory Head at the Max-Planck institute for Nutritional Physiology in Dortmund, Prof Maelicke’s laboratory demonstrated that AD is accompanied by a severe loss of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR), and later, after moving to the University of Mainz Medical School identified a novel class of nAChR ligands capable of enhancing the activity of remaining nAChRs. Galantamine, originally described as a cholinesterase inhibitor, was discovered to belonging to this novel class of “allosterically potentiating ligands" (APL). In 1996, Prof Maelicke suggested APLs as a novel treatment paradigm for AD.
Prof Jordis, formerly Head of the Laboratory of Applied Synthetic Chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna, developed the first large-scale chemical synthesis for galantamine, which was originally obtained from extracts of the Caucasian snow drop. His synthesis patent was instrumental in advancing galantamine to an approved drug – a joint activity by Sanochemia, Austria; Shire, UK; and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Belgium, a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, USA.
For many years, the founders of GalantosPharma acted as advisors and consultants to Sanochemia, Shire, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. In addition, Maelicke and Jordis together with a team of advisors began to explore galantamine as a lead structure for novel AD drugs. Various research projects were initiated to identify, synthesize and analyze NCEs as possible new drug candidates. One of these projects resulted in patent applications covering pro-galantamines for improved brain penetration. These activities culminated in the foundation of GalantosPharma in 2005.
Using transgenic cell lines expressing human nicotinic receptors as screening systems for the selection and prioritization of lead structures, the Maelicke laboratory and later the company laboratories discovered a sizeable number of additional lead structures capable of enhancing the activity of nicotinic receptors in a modulatory fashion. One of these lead structures was further developed to the drug candidate Memogain®, others were developed as drug candidates with neuroprotective potential. Part of the latter project received substantial supportby a grant from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).
In the course of transferring the Memogain project to Neurodyn, GalantosPharmahas moved from the Technology Centre Mainz (TZM) to new premises at Nieder-Olm.