EpiVax has licensed its Tregitope technology — a new approach to harnessing the power of regulatory T-cells in autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) — to an undisclosed global pharmaceutical company.
The license will allow the company to enhance its existing drug development strategy for autoimmune diseases and allergy.
Tregitopes are fragments of proteins found in antibodies that activate natural regulatory T-cells, or nTregs. These cells are crucial to resolving inflammatory processes.
The tiny immune constituents were discovered by EpiVax’s CEO, Annie De Groot, and chief information officer, Bill Martin, when the two were studying the components of intravenous immunoglobulin therapy (IVIG). Since current research emphasizes the importance of regulatory T-cells in combatting diseases such as lupus, the discovery offered a new approach to treating autoimmune conditions.
Early research in animals has shown that tregitopes can reduce unwanted immune processes by boosting immune tolerance. Although the protein fragments are found in antibodies, they are not immunogenic by themselves — meaning that they are not able to establish an immune response or protection.
They are, however, antigen-specific. An antigen is a structure that is recognized by the immune system, like a flag telling immune cells what to attack. So, when given together with antigen molecules, tregitopes both boost regulatory T-cells and dampen the responses of T-cells involved in immune reactions.
“Tregitope is likely to be an important new tool for clinicians who wish to improve the lives of patients. We are confident that our colleagues will successfully launch this first-in-class therapy,” De Groot said in a press release.
EpiVax has offered the pharmaceutical company a non-exclusive license. It allows the unnamed firm to use tregitopes to develop its own treatments for allergy and autoimmunity. EpiVax retains the rights to other applications, including other routes of administration and modes of delivery.
It hopes to expand the use of tregitopes by partnering with other players as well.
“We continue to seek additional partners for a wide range of Tregitope applications, including combination therapy (either with a co-administered antigen with a fusion protein) for autoimmune disease, allergy, transplantation, and dermatology,” De Groot said.