Purpose: Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK) inhibitors lower intraocular pressure (IOP) by increasing aqueous outflow through the trabecular meshwork (TM). The preclinical characterization of netarsudil, a new ROCK/norepinephrine transporter (NET) inhibitor currently in clinical development, is presented herein.
Methods: The kinase inhibitory activity of netarsudil was compared to its esterase metabolite, netarsudil-M1, and 3 other ROCK inhibitors using a commercially available kinase assay kit. Disruption of actin stress fibers was measured in primary porcine TM cells and disruption of focal adhesions in transformed human TM (HTM) cells. Induction of fibrosis markers after exposure to transforming growth factor-β2 (TGF-β2) was conducted in primary HTM cells. Ocular hypotensive activity and tolerability of topical formulations were evaluated in normotensive Dutch Belted rabbits and Formosan Rock monkeys. In vitro corneal metabolism assays were conducted using dog, pig, rabbit, monkey, and human corneas. In vivo ocular pharmacokinetics was studied in Dutch Belted rabbits.
Results: Netarsudil inhibited kinases ROCK1 and ROCK2 with a Ki of 1 nM each, disrupted actin stress fibers and focal adhesions in TM cells with IC50s of 79 and 16 nM, respectively, and blocked the profibrotic effects of TGF-β2 in HTM cells. Netarsudil produced large reductions in IOP in rabbits and monkeys that were sustained for at least 24 h after once daily dosing, with transient, mild hyperemia observed as the only adverse effect.
Conclusion: Netarsudil is a novel ROCK/NET inhibitor with high potency in biochemical and cell-based assays, an ability to produce large and durable IOP reductions in animal models, and favorable pharmacokinetic and ocular tolerability profiles.