Tevogen to Develop T-cell Therapy That Might Prevent EBV Infection

Margarida Maia, PhD avatar

by Margarida Maia, PhD |

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Tevogen Bio is planning to make use of its virus-fighting immune cell technology and turn it against Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common virus thought to greatly increase the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).

The technology employs off-the-shelf cytotoxic T-cells — a type of white blood cell that can kill other cells, such as those infected with a certain virus. This potentially allows the body to replace the infected cells with healthy, uninfected cells.

For people at risk of MS, fighting off an EBV infection could mean preventing the disease from developing. For those already diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease, the treatment might dampen the immune attacks that ultimately damage the myelin sheath in the brain and spinal cord, potentially slowing disease progression.

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“Anyone that knows someone who has been impacted by this debilitating disease understands the importance of advancing science to develop pathways to alleviate the suffering from MS,” Ryan Saadi, MD, CEO of Tevogen, said in a press release.

In MS, the immune system erroneously launches an attack against myelin, a fatty substance that wraps around nerve fibers and is necessary for an efficient nerve cell communication. The exact causes of MS remain unknown, but there are several theories as to what triggers the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues. One likely explanation is an infection at some point in life.

A recent study of more than 10 million U.S. military members found that an infection with EBV, a member of the herpes family of viruses, increases the risk of MS by 32 times. The virus, estimated to infect about 95% of the adult population, is mostly known for causing infectious mononucleosis — with most people experiencing mild, if any, symptoms. After an infection, the virus lays dormant or latent in most people.

“Recent studies on multiple sclerosis have suggested a probable link between latent infection with EBV and later onset of the inflammation that degrades the myelin sheath and causes multiple sclerosis,” said Neal Flomenberg, MD, chairman of the scientific advisory board at Tevogen.

The company is currently testing its technology in a Phase 1 clinical trial (NCT04765449) evaluating the safety and efficacy of T-cells in treating COVID-19, a disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

The therapy, called TVGN-489, essentially involves collecting T-cells from healthy donors who have recovered from COVID-19 and selecting the cells that specifically recognize particles from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Tevogen now plans to use its technology and develop a donor-derived T-cell therapy against EBV for the treatment of MS.

“We look to apply our significant expertise in off-the-shelf [SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cells] to explore EBV specific [T-cell] therapy as a possible means of addressing the unmet needs of MS patients,” Flomenberg added.

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