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Biotech Licenses Gene-Limiting Technology for Allergies

DNA puzzle

(Arek Socha, Pixabay)

27 Nov. 2019. A biotechnology company developing treatments for skin conditions is acquiring a technology for limiting effects of genes causing asthma and allergic reactions. Hoth Therapeutics Inc. in New York is licensing advances from the lab of Glenn Cruse, professor of immunology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, but financial details of the agreement are not disclosed.

Hoth Therapeutics develops therapies for skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, and chronic skin wounds that break up bacteria that form communities called biofilms. These bacterial communities resist antibiotics, and the company says its Biolexa platform prevents the formation of biofilms, to reduce infections and speed healing. The Biolexa technology is based on research licensed from University of Cincinnati, and the company is preparing to test the treatments in a clinical trial with children having mild to moderate atopic dermatitis.

In the new agreement, Hoth Therapeutics is licensing work from NC State on limiting expression of proteins from genes in mast cells causing allergic reactions. Cruse’s lab studies mast cells, immune system cells found in connective tissue, such as skin and internal organ surfaces, but are also implicated in allergic reactions. Certain genes in mast cells code for proteins known as immunoglobulin E receptors that initiate allergic reactions affecting tissues throughout the body, including the airways when triggering an asthma attack.

Cruse and colleagues are developing a process for limiting the expression of immunoglobulin E receptors, thus reducing allergic reactions, and also reducing the need for steroid-based drugs, which can be dangerous for some patients. Their techniques use a process known as exon-skipping that alters a gene’s expression of proteins. Exons are the protein-coding regions of a gene, and the NC State researchers found ways to employ short chains of nucleic acids called oligonucleotides, to skip over the exons coding for immunoglobulin E receptors. Cruse and postdoctoral researcher Greer Arthur describe the technique in a September 2018 paper.

In addition to licensing the Cruse team’s technology, Hoth Therapeutics is collaborating with the lab to refine the technology. Those refinements aim to improve targeting of genes and design oligonucleotides to optimize delivery for regulating expression of immunoglobulin E receptors in mast cells. The project expects to advance these enhancements for testing in lab mice.

“This new collaboration,” says Robb Knie, CEO at Hoth Therapeutics in a company statement, “will allow us to leverage this invention from the renowned expertise of Dr. Glenn Cruse and his scientific team at North Carolina State University. We look forward to seeing how their work advances and what this might mean for patients suffering from undesirable steroid side effects who need an alternate treatment for asthma and other allergic diseases.”

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