June 11, 2017
LIFNano is a simple and safe technology set to unlock new treatments for a number of neurodegenerative diseases. Founder of the technology, Dr Su Metcalfe believes it could well be the cure for MS we’ve all been waiting for.
MS affects some 2.3 million people worldwide and at the moment there is no cure. But when Su was working at Cambridge University’s department of surgery she made a breakthrough.
In an interview with Cambridge News, she said: “I was looking to see what controls the immune response and stops it auto-attacking us.”
“I discovered a small binary switch, controlled by a LIF, which regulates inside the immune cell itself. LIF is able to control the cell to ensure it doesn’t attack your own body, but then releases the attack when needed.
“That LIF, in addition to regulating and protecting us against attack, also plays a major role in keeping the brain and spinal cord healthy. In fact it plays a major role in tissue repair generally, turning on stem cells that are naturally occurring in the body, making it a natural regenerative medicine, but also plays a big part in repairing the brain when it’s been damaged.”
Su had found something to treat auto-immune conditions. She knew she could stop and reverse the auto-immunity, as well as repair the damage caused in the brain, but there was just one problem. The LIF could only survive outside of the cell for 20 minutes before being broken down by the body. This meant there wasn’t enough time to use it in a therapy. And this is where the nanoparticles technology comes in.
“They are made from the same material as soluble stitches, so they’re compatible with the body and they slowly dissolve,” Su explained.
“We load the cargo of the LIF into those particles, which become the delivery device that slowly dissolve and deliver the LIF over five days. The nanoparticle itself is a protective environment, and the enzymes that break it down can’t access it. You can also decorate the surface of the particles with antibodies, so it becomes a homing device that can target specific parts of the brain, for example. So you get the right dose, in the right place, and at the right time.”
The particles themselves were developed at Yale University, which is listed as co-inventor, but LIFNano has the worldwide licence to deploy them.
Unlike drugs currently used to treat MS, LIFNano doesn’t have any side effects because there are no drugs being used in the process. “We’re simply switching on the body’s own systems of self-tolerance and repair. There aren’t any side effects because all we’re doing is tipping the balance. Auto-immunity happens when that balance has gone awry slightly, and we simply reset that. Once you’ve done that, it becomes self-sustaining and you don’t have to keep giving therapy, because the body has its balance back,” Su explained.
LIFNano has already attracted two major funding awards, from drug firm Merck and the Government’s Innovate UK agency. The company now hopes to attract more investment, with the aim of starting clinical trials in 2020.
Su said: “The 2020 date is ambitious, but with the funding we’ve got and the funding we’re hoping to raise, it should be possible.”
“We’ve got everything we need in place to make the nano-particles in a clinically compliant manner, it’s just a case of flicking the switch when we have the money. We’re looking at VCs and big pharma, because they have a strong interest in this area. We’re doing all our pre-clinical work concurrently while bringing in the major funds the company needs to go forward in its own right.”
Once the treatment has been established, Su hopes to look at other conditions such as psoriasis, diabetes and dementia.
Source: MS-UK (05/06/17)