Kjell Olmarker is on a mission

Stayble Therapeutics was founded by professor Kjell Olmarker in 2012. Five years later, his treatment for chronic low back pain is undergoing clinical phase 1b in Sweden. What will happen five years from now?

There had 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 and addressing the symptoms:

– I have been to many conferences on spinal surgery and 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 percent of the treated patients, it will never be a solution for the vast majority of people with cLBP.  Today, only 1 percent of people with discogenic low back pain are treated with spinal fusion.

– I have always felt that there had 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 cBLP. When I ask the surgeons, who perform spinal fusion if they would do it on themselves no one says yes. No-one.

What is your vision for Stayble and STA-363?

– The main strength that makes STA-363 unique is its simplicity and cost-efficiency. Instead of invasive surgery and long-term physiotherapy, our aim is to give patients pain relief within a short time – at a fraction of the cost.

STA-363 is currently undergoing clinical studies. If everything goes according to plan, Stayble will launch a phase 2 study within two years.

– I strongly believe that the development 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 STA-363 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 times...sometimes evoke thoughts on aging

Beginning in the early twenties, human vertebral discs start degenerating, producing microscopic cracks in the anulus fibrosus (disc wall). Secondly, the discs start to destabilize, 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 stabilize spontaneously and the pain may disappear.

– That is how I got the idea for STA-363. 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 stabilize its inner core we could possibly stop the leakage and thus remove the pain. That is still the main hypothesis behind STA-363.

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