Thursday November 9, 2017 0 comments
BROOMFIED -- ImmunoMolecular Therapeutics (IM Therapeutics), a company developing personalized small molecule therapies for the treatment of genetically defined autoimmune diseases, today made its debut as a spinout from the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes at the University of Colorado.
IM Therapeutics was co-founded by Peter Gottlieb, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine with tenure at the University of Colorado Health Science Center, and Director of Translational Research Unit at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes; and Aaron Michels, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics & Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver, the Frieda and George S. Eisenbarth Clinical Immunology Endowed Chair, and director of Clinical Immunology at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes.
IM Therapeutics was created to advance new therapeutic strategies for Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) that aim to directly inactivate pathogenic immune cells responsible for damaging the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.
The key to this approach is the group of immune molecules called human leukocyte antigens (HLA). Because HLA molecules arise from genes that are slightly different among individuals (i.e., alleles), some HLA alleles function in an abnormal way to “mis-present” autoantigens that leads the body to mount an immune system attack against itself.
The HLA-DQ8 allele is one such gene known to predispose individuals that carry it for T1D by mis-presenting autoantigens that favor the generation and function of harmful, but not protective, immune cells.
“The strategy of directly inhibiting HLA-DQ8 has the potential to preserve beta-cell function if treatment is started early,” said Michels.
“With current advancements in diagnostics, we can identify individuals with the HLA-DQ8 gene at risk of T1D before symptoms occur.”
“Our ultimate goal is to inhibit the initiation of an autoimmune response, thus maintaining normal insulin production,” said Gottlieb.
“I am excited to be part of a company that could potentially reduce T1D patients’ lifelong dependence on insulin.”
IM Therapeutics’ scientific co-founders discovered an oral small molecule drug, methyldopa, targets and inhibits the HLA-DQ8 molecule. The company’s lead candidate, IMT-002, is a proprietary formulation of the D enantiomer of methyldopa.
The D enantiomer offers more convenient dosing, better potency and less side effects than the L enantiomer which is an anti-hypertensive.
The company said it has received orphan designation for methyldopa, which applies to both enantiomers. IMT-002 is currently in preclinical development as a candidate to treat T1D in patients with the HLA-DQ8 gene.
Gottlieb and Michels will continue to advance the development of autoimmune therapies for IM Therapeutics as chief medical officer and chief scientific officer, respectively, while maintaining their clinical and academic appointments.
“Our unique personalized small molecule approach to immunotherapy utilized in IMT-002, is being developed to block the peptide binding groove of DQ8 on specific white blood cells,” said Steve Orndorff, IM Therapeutics president and CEO.
“If successful, the pathogenic immune cells would not be able to identify the pancreatic beta-cells and the immune system can’t attack what it can’t see. While our initial focus is on T1D, our intent is to pursue this approach with other genetically defined autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease.”
The company will be led by Orndorff and Greg Kading, chief financial officer and chief operating officer.
Orndorff and Kading previously worked together at Accera, where they were instrumental in guiding the company from R&D to commercialization.
IM Therapeutics also announced the appointment of a Clinical Advisory Board. Clinical Advisors include renowned researchers in diabetes and immunotherapy, Mark Atkinson, Jay Skylar, Stephen Gitelman, Howard Weiner and V. Michael Holers.