A new stroke drug, which takes a new approach to treatment, shows the value of basic research, says a group of researchers at the University of Prince Edward Island.

Andy Tasker

The NA-1 drug treatment for stroke could change the landscape for the development of new drugs, says UPEI researcher Andy Tasker. (Maggie Brown/CBC)

The researchers did some of the research that led to the creation of the new drug. NA-1 will be tested by paramedics at five hospitals across the country as part of phase three clinical trials. Some members of the UPEI team also maintain part ownership of NoNO Inc., the company that is working to develop the drug and paying for the trials.

In previous trials, there was evidence the drug reduced cell death in stroke victims with minimal side-effects. NA-1 has so far shown to be beneficial for all types of stroke, not just ones caused by blood clots. Other medications are designed to break down clots in the brain, while NA-1 acts as a neuroprotectant, which enhances the brain's ability to withstand stroke.

Andy Tasker, one of the researchers who worked on the early stages of the drug at UPEI, said the latest trial is a watershed moment.

"If NA-1 proves effective in this trial it will change the landscape for the development of neuroprotectant drugs and is a wonderful endorsement of the value of investigator-driven, basic research in universities," said Tasker.

Tasker said this phase three trial is also a proud moment for the team at UPEI.

"To know that the part we played was critical in the development of this drug, to demonstrate that fundamental research really can lead to tangible benefits that benefit people in the real world in real time, and also frankly to show that a small university way out in the edges of the country can actually contribute to something which has the enormous potential to be a major impact worldwide," he said.

The trial began March 16 in Toronto and will then expand to other cities across Canada.