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Personalized therapy for severe lupus

Tara Heitner ISD Immunotech
ISD Immunotech expects to finalize characterization of its STING antagonist lead candidate this year, aiming to develop the first personalized treatment for severe lupus patients. Systemic lupus erythematous (SLE) is a complex and hard-to-treat autoimmune disease with a high unmet medical need. It is the most common and most serious type of lupus, and is caused by the immune system attacking its own tissues. This leads to widespread inflammation and tissue damage in the affected organs, which could be joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidney, and blood vessels. This can lead to worsened function and sometimes even organ failure and death. The disease is highly heterogenous, with many different varied symptoms that are difficult to both diagnose and treat, and today there are currently no safe and effective therapies available for the most severe patients. “Pathways involved in lupus cause many biological downstream effects on many different immune cell types and many different tissues. So therapies that only target B-cells, or T-cells or that only target IFN-alpha, can have some effect in some patients but not great efficacy across patient populations. Furthermore it is difficult to identify which patients could benefit from each treatment,” explains Tara Heitner, CEO of Danish spin-out ISD Immunotech.   Controlling a key pathway In order to find better treatments for this patient population, Tara Heitner and her colleagues are working to develop the first personalized therapy for the disease. The company is built upon discoveries made at Aarhus University, initially as part of a research program on influenza virus and vaccines. “We have adapted from nature a strategy for controlling a key pathway in autoimmune disease, the STING pathway, which has been shown to be hyperactivated in severe lupus patients,” says Heitner. “Viruses have evolved over millions of years to gain the capability to infect human cells and suppress the immune system to gain a survival advantage. Our lead candidate, ISD017, is a peptide derived from an influenza virus peptide that is used by the virus to get into cells and inhibit the STING pathway, which helps it to stay “hidden” from the immune system.” "Today severe SLE patients are given cocktails of immunosuppressants and glucocorticoids, which have serious side effects, some of which are worse than the disease. So the market is wide open for severe lupus." Clinical data has shown that the hyperactivation of the STING pathway correlates with the disease severity. “For this reason we are working on biomarker assays to help identify patients with STING pathway hyperactivation. Laboratory and animal data shows that ISD017 binds directly to STING and suppresses all downstream bi
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