PROVIDENCE – EpiVax Inc., a biotech firm in Providence’s Knowledge District, has announced a collaborative research partnership with German biomedical company Biotest AG to develop a coagulatory protein for the treatment of hemophilia.
Factor VIII, a blood-clotting protein concentrated from donated blood plasma, can be transferred through the bloodstream to treat Hemophilia A, a genetic disorder that impairs the body’s ability to form blood clots and stop bleeding. However, some hemophiliac patients develop immunity to Factor VIII, which can diminish the protein’s effectiveness at treating the condition or even lead to severe bleeding disorders.
Through the integration in the protein of EpiVax’s immune-modulating technology, called Tregitopes, EpiVax and Biotest aim to produce a non-immunogenic Factor VIII protein that would not induce a negative immune-system reaction in hemophiliac patients receiving Factor VIII therapy treatment.
“This is an entirely novel approach to improving Factor VIII therapy,” said Dr. Anne S. De Groot, president and CEO of EpiVax. “In addition, a whole range of other biologics such as toxins and monoclonal antibodies might also benefit from the same approach.”
Tregitopes, or linear sequences of amino acids, act as a natural immune-system “off switch,” EpiVax said. Preclinical studies carried out by EpiVax and its partners have shown that Tregitopes can reduce the formation of immunogenic antibody inhibitors and induce immune-system tolerance. In collaboration with Biotest, EpiVax scientists will use Tregitopes to reduce antibody formation against the Factor VIII protein.
“The development of ‘inhibitors’ is a life-threatening complication with a profound impact on patients’ lives,” said Dr. Jörg Schüttrumpf, senior vice president of global research at Biotest. “We want to make it possible to avoid the most serious side effect of today’s hemophilia treatment.”
The project builds on research funded by a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health.