New research collaboration for CSL and UniQuest

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CSL has a new collaboration with UniQuest, The University of Queensland’s technology transfer company, to develop and commercialise antigen-specific immune tolerance induction (ASITI) technology for the treatment of Sjogren’s Syndrome.

Under the agreement, CSL will fund an R&D collaboration and have an option to license the exclusive worldwide rights to develop the university's ASITI technology in the field of Sjogren’s Syndrome.

Sjogren’s Syndrome is a disorder of the immune system identified by its two most common symptoms — dry eyes and a dry mouth.

The ASITI technology re-establishes disease-causing antigen-specific tolerance in patients without impairing normal immunity and the ability to fight infections.

The new collaboration involves the identification of a liposome-encapsulated antigen candidate and subsequent progression of the lead candidate towards clinical development.

“This partnership will bring together CSL’s expertise in the development of treatments for autoimmune diseases and UQ’s excellence in life sciences research, following two earlier research collaborations between the partners relating to immune modifying therapies,” said UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss.

“The excellent research behind this technology reflects the UQ team’s significant experience in autoimmune diseases; and the awarding of more than $US1M in non-diluting funding from The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to UQ to advance the type 1 diabetes program up to clinical trials is testament to this,” added Dr Moss.

The research team, led by Professor Ranjeny Thomas from UQ’s Diamantina Institute, discovered that the body’s immune response could be 're-educated' to turn-off rather than react to a self-antigen responsible for autoimmune disease.

Professor Thomas has focussed on the study of biology and the clinical use of human dendritic cells in autoimmune disease and has a strong track record of collaborating with industry partners.

“Our liposome-encapsulated antigen, DEN-181 for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been developed to the end of a first-in-human clinical trial,” said Professor Thomas said.

“From that first clinical trial, we learnt a lot about DEN-181, its ability to modulate antigen-specific T cells in RA patients of appropriate HLA type and platform improvements, which we are now applying to the Sjogren’s Syndrome program and our unpartnered preclinical programs including RA and T1D.

“We’ve been fortunate to be able to partner with CSL and utilise their expertise in developing products to treat autoimmune conditions,” Professor Thomas said.

Commenting on the collaboration, CSL senior vice president of research, Dr Andrew Nash, said “This is another example of Australian research excellence, harnessing the strengths of both industry and academia to address an important area of unmet medical need. This program could lead to an entirely new approach for the treatment of Sjogren’s Syndrome.”