Noxopharm (ASX:NOX) and its majority-owned subsidiary, Nyrada, have announced the discovery of a way to inhibit IRAK4.
The protein is widely regarded as the ‘master switch’ in the development of many forms of chronic inflammation including autoimmune diseases.
Nyrada is a US incorporated biotechnology company, two-thirds owned by Noxopharm and consolidated within the NOX Group, to hold the Noxopharm non-oncology drug development programs: (i) a PCSK9 inhibitor; (ii) an anti-inflammatory drug; and, (iii) a neuroprotectant drug.
The company said IRAK4 has emerged in recent years as a key switch in the cells that form the body’s immune system.
"Faulty IRAK4 behaviour in these innate immune cells is widely regarded as playing a key role in the development of many forms of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases," it said.
"This has led to IRAK4-inhibitors being widely hailed as the next generation of anti-inflammatory drugs for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease), lupus and psoriasis."
It said the future of its IRAK4 program lies in the treatment of inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system (brain and spine) and the body’s peripheral nerves.
"This belief comes from the ability of this compound to cross the barriers that exclude the great majority of drugs from entering the brain and peripheral nerves," it said.
This ability provides what Noxopharm believes is an opportunity to pursue drug development for inflammation associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (motor neurone disease) and peripheral neuropathies (particularly diabetic peripheral neuropathy).
According to Nyrada vice-president, James Bonnar, “A lot of attention currently is being given to developing IRAK4 inhibitors for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and gouty arthritis and lupus, but we see our discovery as a breakthrough in providing the tools needed to address inflammatory and autoimmune diseases of the nervous system.”
Graham Kelly, Noxopharm CEO, added, “I see this as a major development. At a strategic level it adds an important plank to the Group’s ambitions to evolve into a global biotech company. But importantly at the patient level, it represents a realistic prospect for finally being able to provide treatment for a number of insidious diseases affecting the nervous system which have defied successful management to date.
“Neuroinflammation has long been known to be associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. But recent evidence now shows that neuroinflammation is associated even with psychiatric conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.”
“Having a drug that blocks IRAK4 and all its downstream pro-inflammatory cytokine effects, combined with its ability to reach the brain in sufficient levels, is an exciting breakthrough that has resulted from a lot of hard work by a team of Australian chemists and scientists,” added Mr Kelly.