Collaboration Explores Therapies for Autoimmune Diseases

Marta Figueiredo, PhD avatar

by Marta Figueiredo, PhD |

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autoimmune diseases

Cytocom has joined forces with La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) to discover and develop new immune-modulating therapies targeting toll-like receptors (TLRs) for autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), cancer, and infectious and chronic inflammatory conditions.

TLRs are an important family of protein receptors found at the surface of immune cells and others; they play a critical role in activating the first line of defense against microbes. As such, they are key to fighting disease and to restore immune balance (homeostasis).

The five-year partnership seeks to combine Cytocom’s proprietary treatment discovery and development platform, called Advanced Immunomodulating Multi-receptor System (AIMS), with LJI’s expertise as a world leader in immunology.

“An alliance with an academic institution the caliber of the La Jolla Institute marks a major achievement for Cytocom and our mission to advance best-of-class immune-modulating therapies that restore immune homeostasis,” Michael K. Handley, Cytocom’s president and CEO, said in a press release.

“Working with the La Jolla Institute, we will deeply explore the mechanisms that we believe will drive next-generation therapeutic development with our AIMS technology and bring hope to patients and their families battling serious medical conditions,” Handley added.

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Under the terms of the collaboration agreement, Cytocom will pay the institute up to $1.4 million per year to secure the use of up to four laboratory facilities dedicated to selected research projects.

These will include projects of mutual interest and/or those commissioned by the company that explore immune modulation and treatment effects on target TLRs. Cytocom will provide research funding, as well as samples and materials, to these projects.

In return, the company will own any new discoveries that arise from the commissioned research projects and will have the option of negotiating a license to new findings resulting from the projects of common interest funded by Cytocom.

Cytocom has one of the largest platforms of TLRs in the biopharmaceutical industry, and is using its AIMS platform to develop TLR-targeting therapies designed to elicit a robust and durable immune response against autoimmune, inflammatory, and infectious diseases, and cancers.

Its CYTO-200 AIMS Program is focused on developing therapies that selectively block the TLR4 protein — a member of the TLR family whose excessive activation is associated with autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammatory conditions.

These therapeutic molecules are designed to be improved versions of noroxymorphone, a by-product of the opioid suppressor naltrexone that was found to have anti-inflammatory properties by blocking TLR4.

According to the company’s website, the AIMS platform is helping to “determine how multiple factors impact [pharmacological] relationships, potency, and selectivity” of molecules similar to noroxymorphone.

Using this platform, Cytocom has “discovered, with more accuracy, [molecules] with the improved properties to address specific patient needs eliciting immune response levels not achieved by other published immunotherapy approaches,” the company wrote in the website.

Current CYTO-200 AIMS therapeutic candidates have been or are currently being tested in early clinical trials as potential treatments for Crohn’s disease (the most advanced program), COVID-19 infection, MS, and fibromyalgia.

Of note, Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease, and fibromyalgia is a medical condition characterized by chronic widespread pain.

“We are excited to work with Cytocom to interrogate the mechanisms of immune modulation and human immunity modulated through toll-like receptors,” said Mitchell Kronenberg, PhD, LJI’s president and chief scientific officer.

“Collaborations between academic research organizations and the biopharmaceutical industry play a key role in advancing science and informing [therapy] development to benefit everyone involved, from discovery-oriented scientists to therapeutic-oriented companies,” Kronenberg added.

“Most importantly, the combined efforts provide hope to the millions of people worldwide who deserve immunotherapies that deliver a healthy life without disease,” Kronenberg said.

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