Medical Research Council grant awarded to collaboration group developing novel autoimmune therapy


Abzena plc, a life sciences group providing services and technologies to enable the development and manufacture of biopharmaceutical products, and UCL (University College London), one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary universities, announce that a research group from UCL’s Centre for Rheumatology has been awarded a £3.5m grant from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to progress the development of a novel treatment for anti-phospholipid syndrome (APS) which uses Abzena’s proprietary conjugation technology

APS is a disorder of the immune system, where abnormal antibodies, called antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL) are produced increasing the risk of clotting in the blood. As a result patients with APS are more likely to have a stroke or heart attack and pregnant women with APS have an increased risk of recurrent miscarriage.

Patients are currently treated with anticoagulants, such as warfarin, but these are associated with a significant risk of bleeding so there is a need for alternative therapies.

Abzena has a longstanding collaboration with the team at UCL who identified the beta-2-GPI molecule known as Domain I (DI). In pre-clinical studies DI prevented aPL from causing clotting and the team also used Abzena’s technology to modify DI to increase the time it circulates in the blood. This is significant as patients with APS are expected to require treatment for life, so it reduces the frequency with which medication would need to be dosed.

The funding will enable the lead product to be selected, material to be produced for pre-clinical studies, and the studies to support a clinical trial application to be completed ready for this potential new treatment to be taken into clinical development.

Dr John Burt, Abzena’s CEO, said: “Our collaboration with the UCL team is proving successful with a promising candidate now identified. Thanks to the grant, UCL now has the funds to move towards the clinic and we look forward to further supporting the programme in the next stage of its development.”

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