By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – EpiVax Inc. was awarded a $55,000 grant from the GBS/CIDP Foundation International to explore using Tregitopes as a new therapy for a nerve disease that is treated currently with intravenous immunoglobulin.
Tregitopes, discovered in 2008 by the team of Dr. Anne S. De Groot and Bill Martin at EpiVax, are linear sequences of peptides contained within the framework of monoclonal antibodies that activate natural regulatory T cells.
Tregitopes have been shown to suppress and treat autoimmune disease and allergies.
The new grant brings the total amount of funding awarded to EpiVax this year to more than $3.4 million for research and development of Tregitopes. In August, EpiVax received a Small Business Innovation Research grant for $600,000 to explore the use of Tregitopes for Pompe disease.
EpiVax said that it was considering spinning off its Tregitope technology should angel or venture funding be made available, according to De Groot, founder and CEO of EpiVax.
Anticipated uses of Tregitopes include induction of tolerance to co-administered protein drugs, a market estimated to be worth more than $100 billion globally, according to De Groot.
The new research funds will be devoted to developing a replacement for IVIG in the treatment of individuals who have CIDP, also known as Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. A single dose of IVIG costs $8,000, and patients often spend tens of thousands of dollars obtaining treatment for their condition per year.
Scientists at EpiVax believe that the mechanism of action of IVIG and Tregitopes are very similar, if not identical in some cases. Other diseases treated with IVIG include Guillain-Barre syndrome, and IVIG therapy is now under study for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Tregitopes may also have broad applications in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. EpiVax is also working with Dr. Samia Khoury, a researcher based at Harvard Brigham and Women’s Hospital, to develop a Tregitope-based treatment for multiple sclerosis.