The planned therapy would consist of antibodies derived from humans that block the naturally occurring protein interferon alpha, a protein important in the immune system’s activation and its defenses against viruses.
Elevated blood levels of interferon alpha are common in lupus patients, however, and are thought to play a role in autoimmune reactions in which the immune system turns against healthy cells, a cause of disorders such as lupus. As such, a strategy for treating some patients with autoimmune disorders that do not respond to existing therapies, including those with lupus, is to block interferon alpha.
An important step to developing a therapy that targets interferon alpha is finding antibodies to the protein. ImmunoQure had been studying a rare disorder called APS-1. Patients with the disease develop antibodies to a range of proteins a person’s body produces, called autoantibodies because they target the body’s own proteins.
ImmunoQure published a an article in the journal Cell describing the autoantibodies found in APS-1 patients, including specific autoantibodies that block the action of the different types of interferon alpha that exist in a person. ImmunoQure, in collaboration with scientists, has used blood from these patients to develop its anti-interferon alpha therapy, which is based on human-derived monoclonal antibodies (HD-Mabs).
“We are very excited to advance our autoantibody into the clinic with Servier. This is the next stage of our scientific strategy, for which Servier is an ideal partner, having demonstrated their expertise in developing high-potential therapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory diseases,” Adrian Hayday, co-founder of ImmunoQure, said in a press release.
“Our collaboration with ImmunoQure allows us to target a major pathway of inflammation. The ultimate goal is to significantly improve the management of patients who suffer from autoimmune diseases and who do not respond, even partially, to existing therapies,” said Claude Bertrand, general director of Research and Development at Servier.
ImmunoQure, based in Germany, and Servier, based in France, will work together to advance ImmunoQure’s therapeutic human interferon alpha autoantibody in preclinical tests, with a goal of bringing it to clinical trials. .
Servier will assume responsibility for its development as a way to treat diseases in which elevated levels of interferon-alpha play a role, with an emphasis on Sjögren’s syndrome and systemic lupus erythemathosus. Servier will provide ImmunoQure with an upfront payment and milestones that will amount up to 164 million euros, about $200 million. ImmunoQure will also receive royalties on net sales under the agreement.