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Developing novel treatments for social dysfunction and substance use disorders


Substance Use Disorders

Increased prevalence of alcohol, illicit and prescription drug abuse represents a considerable treatment challenge for health professionals. In 2018, fewer than 20% of the 21.2 million people in the USA needing treatment for a substance use disorder received any treatment (1).  This is, at least in part, driven by the limited number of approved pharmaceutical treatments (with their being none approved for some substance use disorders), there minimal efficacy, and in some cases poor safety and tolerability. Despite this, medication-assisted treatment remains the recommended first line therapy for many substance use disorders. Consequently, there is an urgent need for more effective treatments.

1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2019) ‘Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health’, HHS Publication No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54, 170, pp. 51–58. Available at:

Opioid Use Disorder

In the first half of 2019, approximately 80% of all overdose deaths involved one or more opioids (2). However, only a limited number of FDA approved pharmacological treatment options are currently available and these are underutilised. For example, fewer than 20% of people in the USA with opioid use disorder (OUD) receive an OUD-specific treatment (3). Overcoming the severe opioid withdrawal syndrome that emerges soon after ceasing or reducing opioid use is the first major barrier to recovery. Despite this, there is only one non-opioid treatment approved for treating opioid withdrawal symptoms, lofexidine, and it suffers from limited efficacy and safety issues. Kinoxis’ KNX100 program aims to help tackle the opioid epidemic by providing a more effective, safer treatment for the mitigation of opioid withdrawal symptoms.

2. O’Donnell, J. et al. (2020) ‘ Vital Signs: Characteristics of Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids and Stimulants — 24 States and the District of Columbia, January–June 2019 ’, MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 69(35), pp. 1189–1197. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6935a1.

3. McCance-Katz, E. (SAMHSA/OAS) (2018) ‘SAMHSA/HHS: An Update on the Opioid Crisis’, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, p. 23. Available at:


Social Dysfunction​

Disrupted social behaviour is a major symptom of many disorders of the brain and mind, including autism spectrum disorder, social anxiety disorder, substance use disorders, schizophrenia, depression, and dementia. In addition to being a significant symptom of these disorders, social dysfunction also presents a barrier to treatment, with engagement with positive social support networks identified as a critical factor in recovery. Despite this, there are currently no approved pharmacological treatments specifically targeting social symptoms in psychiatric and neurological disorders. The Kinoxis research team is discovering and developing therapeutics that specifically enhance social functioning by targeting pathways in the brain involved in social behaviour, with a major focus on the oxytocin receptor.

The Kinoxis Approach

It is becoming increasingly apparent that in many disorders of the brain and mind, the pathways in the brain that allow normal social functioning to occur are altered. At Kinoxis Therapeutics, we are developing compounds that help to restore normal social function by rebalancing activity in malfunctioning social pathways in the brain. We believe this highly novel approach has the potential to provide treatment breakthroughs for many disorders of the brain and mind.

Download the Kinoxis Therapeutics Fact Sheet.


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