Alchemab, a biotech company harnessing the power of naturally protective antibodies, has been awarded a UK Biomedical Catalyst early award grant from Innovate UK to support its collaboration with Medicines Discovery Catapult and the development of a novel disease-modifying antibody therapy for Huntington’s disease.
Using its novel approach, Alchemab has identified a panel of antibodies with disease-modifying potential from Huntington’s patients. These patients demonstrated slower progression than expected based on their genetic predisposition. The antibodies that were common across these ‘resilient’ individuals were notably absent in patients with normal disease progression or healthy controls.
Using the Innovate UK grant, Alchemab will functionally characterise the panel of antibodies to identify lead candidates for first-in-human studies over 18 months. By determining the molecular target of these antibodies, and whether they can protect against pathological mechanisms of Huntington’s, it may be possible to develop a new disease-modifying therapy for patients who do not have a naturally protective antibody response. If successful, a therapy of this nature could be transformative in slowing or halting disease progression.
Alex Leech, CEO at Alchemab, said: “The Huntington disease program combines our strength in antibody discovery and development and cutting-edge science and analytical techniques with the capabilities of the Medicines Discovery Catapult. We also have the benefit of having access to HD patient samples from CHDI Foundation. We are well positioned to discover and develop a potentially transformative therapy, whilst continuing the development of other programs across neurodegenerative disorders, oncology and infectious disease.”
The project will be conducted in collaboration with Medicines Discovery Catapult, drawing on its experience in the expression of iPSC-derived CNS cells – integral for studying brain diseases. The work will combine phenotypic drug discovery using data-rich methods with the latest translational human cell models for neurodegenerative disease to accelerate clinical development. The patient samples used have been provided by CHDI Foundation, a non-profit biomedical research organisation dedicated to collaboratively developing therapeutics that substantially improve the lives of those affected by HD.
Alchemab’s approach aims to understand how resilient individuals maintain health and show resistance to a disease, even if they are genetically predisposed or susceptible. It looks at the vast antibody repertoire that humans produce as part of their normal immune response to understand such adaptive immunity. Using the insights, Alchemab can identify naturally protective antibodies with therapeutic potential.
Professor Peter Simpson, Chief Scientific Officer at Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) said: “Alchemab’s approach turns the normal biotech drug discovery model on its head, looking at natural resilience to disease rather than the disease itself. MDC’s role is to continue to develop our iPSC-derived cell models to further understand the binding of different antibodies indicated by Alchemab to be of interest. We are excited to begin this invaluable collaboration, one which may completely transform our wider understanding of the pathophysiology of Huntington’s disease.”