Kjell Olmarker is on a mission

Stayble Therapeutics was founded by professor Kjell Olmarker in 2015. Four years later, his treatment for chronic low back pain has successfully been evaluated in a phase Ib study and a phase IIb study is planned to be launched in H1 2020. What will happen five years from now?

There has to be a better, simpler way.

Kjell Olmarker’s interest in low back pain started when researching the sciatic nerve and the associated pain many people experience. Currently, most treatment options focus on relieving pressure on the spinal disc and addressing the symptoms.

– I have been to many conferences on spinal surgery as a treatment. The general conclusion is that spinal fusion, a very costly and invasive method, only helps about 60-80 percent of the treated patients.

Available for the majority
And while spinal fusions do make life better for around 60-80% of the treated patients, it will never be a solution for the vast majority of people with cLBP.  Today, only 1% of people with discogenic low back pain are treated with spinal fusion.

– I have always felt that there has to be a better way; a less invasive treatment, available for a larger portion of those affected. Spinal fusion is not available for the absolute majority of people with cLBP. When I ask the surgeons who perform spinal fusion if they would have that surgery done on themselves very few say yes.

What is your vision for Stayble and STA-363?

– The main strength that makes STA363 unique is its simplicity and cost-efficiency. Instead of invasive surgery and long-term physiotherapy, our aim is to offer patients pain relief within a short time – at a fraction of the cost.

STA363 has been evaluated in a phase 1b trial. Stayble plans to launch a phase 2b study 2020.

– I strongly believe that the product has an excellent potential to be efficient. One of the reasons for this is that the treatment is based on a reformulated substance from a well-documented molecule which makes it straightforward. In contrast to traditional drug development projects, there is no need for pharmacokinetic or further toxicological studies. This will keep down the costs, risks and development times substantially.

Who will benefit from the treatment?
– I believe STA363 will provide benefits for many stakeholders and may perform well on a global level, including countries with limited resources and healthcare facilities. The procedure is easy to perform, you just need an x-ray machine and a spinal surgeon or radiologist to give the injection. I think we have a very bright future ahead of us!

Airport waiting...sometimes evokes thoughts on aging

Beginning in the early twenties, human intervertebral discs start degenerating, producing microscopic cracks in the anulus fibrosus (disc wall). Then, the discs start to destabilise, and these changes enable leakage of inflammatory mediators from the nucleus pulposus (disc centre). This process irritates nerves within and outside of the disc, causing pain. However, once you reach the age of 65-70 years, the discs often stabilises spontaneously and the pain may disappear.

– That is how I got the idea for STA363. I was sitting at an airport after a conference on low back pain and spinal surgery. My flight was delayed and my mind drifted off. I thought: what if we could replicate the natural process in a disc? If we could stabilise its inner core we could possibly stop the leakage and thus alleviate the pain. That is still the main hypothesis behind STA363.


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