Tourette Syndrome, the nervous system disorder that causes tics, or rapid and repetitive twitches and sounds that are involuntary, can be a debilitating condition.
While there are no reliable estimates of how common Tourette Syndrome is in adults, the Tourette Association of America estimates that the disease occurs in more than 1 in 160 children and that it is more common in boys than girls. The American Brain Foundation estimates that around 200,000 Americans have the most severe form of the condition.
Tourette Syndrome currently has no cure and few treatment options. According to a survey of more than 1,100 people with Tourette Syndrome conducted by the Tourette Association of America, many patients report trying several medications to try and control their symptoms but say they don’t feel current drugs do a good enough job at remedying their condition.
Jeff Aronin, CEO of life sciences accelerator Paragon Biosciences, told Insider that Tourette Syndrome as a condition stood out to him because the disorder can be physically painful for patients but it is also socially challenging. According to the Tourette Association survey, half of the adults with the condition said that tics prevented them from forming meaningful friendships or romantic relationships, and 27% reported attempting suicide in the past 12 months.
Aronin realized there was an unmet need where he could step in. He told Insider that while most drug developers find a molecule in a lab that could potentially treat a certain illness and then pursue that molecule through clinical trials, he’s taken the opposite approach. Instead, he and his team at Paragon identify an illness that needs more attention and then work backward from there to figure out what kind of drug might work best to treat that illness.
That’s how in 2018 he came to found Emalex Biosciences, a pharmaceutical startup, to test a new drug for Tourette Syndrome.
The suffering, the misunderstanding of how serious and significant it is, I think really put it over the top