After a four-year joint quest with the SciLifeLab Drug Discovery and Development platform for a new treatment for inflammatory conditions, Susanne Lindquist and Olle Hernell from Umeå University today reached their final project milestone. Around the corner awaits trials to bring their therapeutic antibody targeting bile salt-stimulated lipase to patients.
When Olle Hernell, now Professor Emeritus in Pediatrics at Umeå University, begun his research on bile salt-stimulated lipase (BSSL) in the 70’s, the enzyme was believed to be exclusively secreted from the lactating mammary gland to contribute to the digestion of milk lipids in the small intestine. Later, he and Susanne Lindquist, Associate Professor in Experimental Pediatrics at Umeå University, made the discovery that BSSL is in fact present in the blood stream, secreted from granulocytes, and that the levels are increased in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
“We followed with experiments showing that both BSSL knock-out mice and mice treated with an antibody targeting BSSL are protected from developing arthritis”, says Olle Hernell.
This spurred them to join forces with the SciLifeLab Drug Discovery and Development (DDD) platform to pursue the opportunity for a novel biological drug for treatment of inflammatory diseases. Their mission: to produce a humanized anti-BSSL antibody for safe and effective use in patients.
The DDD Human Antibody Therapeutics unit suggested three parallel strategies to develop the right antibody.
“Helena Persson Lotsholm’s idea of building an entirely new phage library turned out to be the most successful”, says Susanne Lindquist. “After a phage-display assay, we could select five pre-nominated candidate drug antibodies. Seven DDD platform units then contributed their unique competencies in order to comprehensively characterize the antibodies and, this past summer, we were able to narrow it down to just one – SOL116.
The plan is to further develop the SOL-116 antibody through the Umeå-based company Lipum AB, of which Susanne Lindquist and Olle Hernell are co-founders. They have already started to develop cell-lines for antibody production using contract labs in Great Britain and USA.
”The next step is to start toxicology studies in the summer of 2020 and move in to Phase I trials in 2021”, says Pernilla Abrahamsson, COO of Lipum AB. “Our goal is to bring this completely new anti-inflammatory drug to the market and improve the lives of patients with inflammatory diseases.”
“In retrospect, I can truly say that we couldn’t have done this project without SciLifeLab”, Olle Hernell concludes. “To begin with, we didn’t even know which things we didn’t know, so to speak. Nor did we have the funds to be able to do it ourselves. The vast competence of the DDD platform scientists has been invaluable to us.”