IBT and Stanford Awarded STTR
IBT and Stanford Awarded STTR for HCV Therapeutic Antibodies
Integrated BioTherapeutics (IBT) and Stanford University have been jointly awarded a $300,000 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. The goal of the grant is to develop a highly effective immunotherapeutic to prevent Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) reinfection in liver transplant patients based on antibodies that limit the ability of the virus to escape treatment via mutations.
Up to 170 million people worldwide are chronically infected with HCV, putting infected individuals at significant risk for cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. Chronic infection is poorly controlled by current antiviral treatments though there is new optimism with two recent FDA-approved direct acting antivirals, telaprevir and boceprevir. These drugs, however, are not recommended in the transplant setting due to likely adverse drug-drug interactions.
A mounting body of evidence suggests that virus neutralizing antibodies are protective for HCV and this project will determine if blocking HCV entry with such antibodies is a viable strategy to prevent reinfection. A key challenge is that HCV is highly diverse and exists as a swarm of quasispecies in the infected host, potentially enabling the virus to generate escape mutants. The risk is thought to be more severe in transplants due to error-prone replication in the allograft. The work at IBT and Stanford will minimize this risk by targeting conserved epitopes, specifically on the E2 glycoprotein, a strategy that has shown promise in early lab tests against diverse HCV strains.
Dr. Kelly Warfield of IBT and Dr. Steven Foung of Stanford are joint principal investigators of the new program, officially titled Immunotherapeutics to prevent HCV reinfection. "We are extremely excited to be working with Dr. Foung to target HCV infections," said Dr. Warfield, "His antibodies have tremendous promise to broadly neutralize HCV so I'm looking forward to applying IBT's expertise in virology and antibody development in an effort to realize this potential and add to our therapeutics pipeline."
Dr. Foung's lab will generate the antibodies and perform virologic assays. Once a sufficiently protective antibody has been generated it will be tested for protection in HCV-infected chimeric mice that contain human liver cells. IBT will perform the antibody production, purification, and biochemical characterization, as well as the animal testing, lending a wealth of experience with animal models of infection. It is anticipated that IBT and Dr. Foung will jointly file for patent protection on antibodies that successfully demonstrate proof of the concept.