CGEN-15001, which could become the first tolerance-inducing therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune conditions, is on the agenda of a scientific conference in Canada that is going on now and another conference in May.
The first CGEN-15001 presentation that Compugen is delivering is at the Keystone Symposia: Immune Regulation in Autoimmunity and Cancer from March 26-30 in Whistler, Canada. The next will be at the Immunology 2017 meeting on May 12-16 in Washington.
A tolerance induction therapy involves using an agent to modulate the immune system so that immune T-cells do not respond to the body’s own molecules.
CGEN-15001 is based on the discovery of a new immune checkpoint — a term more well-known in cancer therapy. Immune checkpoints are mechanisms that should be in place to prevent the immune system from turning against the body’s own cells.
Cancer cells hijack immune checkpoints to prevent the immune system from attacking the tumor. Researchers have used this insight to develop drugs that block the checkpoint, unleashing the power of an immune attack.
But immune checkpoint failures can also lead to flawed immune tolerance — the ability of the immune system to see a cell as one of its own. In such cases, autoimmune reactions occur.
While many therapeutic approaches in MS are aimed at blocking an immune response, the therapy candidate CGEN-15001 acts to promote immune actions that are needed for tolerance development.
“A large portion of the autoimmune patients [are] failing to respond to existing standard of care treatments,” Anat Cohen-Dayag, PhD, president and CEO of Compugen, said in a press release. This means that “there is significantly increased interest by the industry in innovative approaches to treat autoimmune diseases,” she said.
Earlier studies have shown that CGEN-15001 reduced disease in animal models of MS and other autoimmune conditions. In some models, a short treatment period was enough to trigger a durable response, which included lower levels of inflammation.
Experiments have shown that the drug acts on regulatory T-cells, promoting their development from immature T-cells. Compugen believes the drug’s disease-lowering actions are linked to its ability to boost regulatory cells.
“CGEN-15001 has demonstrated the potential in preclinical studies to restore immune homeostasis and to avoid the global immune suppression generated by other therapeutic agents, thus potentially leading to tolerance induction and a durable therapeutic response in autoimmune conditions,” Cohen-Dayag said.
“Tolerance induction represents a paradigm shift in the treatment of multiple autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes. Therefore, CGEN-15001, as a potential first-in-class immune tolerance-inducing agent, is gaining increased industry interest,” she added.
Compugen recently announced that it is looking for pharmaceutical industry partners to help it continue developing CGEN-15001.