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University Spin-Off Developing Sepsis Drug

Syringes for disposal

(alexroma, Pixabay)

23 August 2016. A spin-off enterprise from University of British Columbia is licensing a cholesterol-lowering drug from drug maker Novartis to develop a treatment for sepsis and other severe infections. Financial aspects of the agreement with Cyon Therapeutics Inc., a biotechnology company in Vancouver, were not disclosed.

The team of John Boyd, James Russell, and Keith Walley from UBC’s Centre for Heart Lung Innovation founded Cyon Therapeutics in May 2014 to commercialize discoveries from their joint research interest on organ failure from severe infections. Among the more serious infections is sepsis, which results from an immune-system reaction to chemicals released by the body to fight infection, including infections from medical equipment such as catheters. The inflammatory responses can occur anywhere in the body and generate a series of further reactions, including blood clots and leaking blood vessels, causing organ damage and failure.

The deal calls for Cyon to gain worldwide rights to a highly-specific engineered antibody code-named LGT-209, designed to block the actions of proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9, or PCSK9. Novartis developed LGT-209 to degrade receptors for low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol that contributes to the build-up of plaque that clogs and hardens arteries. Novartis tested the safety of LGT-209 in two early-stage clinical trials, both on its own and with statins, another type of cholesterol-lowering drug.

Research at UBC by the founders discovered another property of antibodies like LGT-209. Degrading receptors for LDL cholesterol, the work of LGT-209, improves the liver’s ability to recycle these receptors, adding more receptors to the surfaces of liver cells, and thus removing more LDL cholesterol from the blood. Toxins generated by sepsis and related infections are fat soluble and accumulate in LDL cholesterol, which if not cleared quickly, can generate a severe immune reaction. Thus, the ability of LGT-209 to help the liver clear LDL cholesterol from the blood also helps the liver clear toxins from infections that build up in cholesterol.

The team expects to develop LGT-209 as a preventive drug and treatment for sepsis. Cyon is planning an intermediate-stage clinical trial for the first half of 2017, enrolling some 300 patients in emergency rooms at hospitals in Canada and the U.S. Participants will first be screened for genetic characteristics indicating those more or less likely to respond to the antibody. Single-injection doses are expected to range from 5 to 10 times higher than those given to lower cholesterol.

Cyon received its initial funds from Canadian and provincial science funding agencies including Centre for Drug Research and Development, Genome BC, and National Research Council of Canada. The company says the deal with Novartis clears the way for the company to initiate its first venture capital funding.

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