Bacteria, which are particularly common in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, could be the trigger for the inflammatory reactions in the brain and spinal cord. Endogenous proteins of the brain and protein building blocks of these intestinal bacteria can be used to stop misdirected autoimmune reactions. The BioTech spin-off Cellerys founded at the University of Zurich exploits its potential in a new partnership with Novartis.
CLS12311, as the new therapeutic approach is called, is a cell therapy. It involves taking blood cells from patients and coupling them with pieces of proteins that instruct the immune system not to attack its own body. “You have to think of it like a vaccination, only in reverse,” says Roland Martin from Cellerys. With a vaccination, the immune system is empowered to recognize and fight a specific pathogen. The approach of Cellerys tries the opposite, which is to train the immune system not to attack certain components of the brain. In contrast to conventional treatments of MS, cell therapies might need to be performed only once or twice. This is precisely because they address the core of the disease – namely the overactive immune system. This eliminates the need for long-term medication, which is particularly burdensome for MS patients because of the sometimes severe side effects. „The new therapy fights MS at its source. This could prevent the cascade of inflammation, loss of nerve cells and increasing disability that can be devastating in MS patients from getting underway in the first place“, explains Andreas Lutterotti from Cellerys the advantages of CLS12311.
In addition to Roland Martin and Andreas Lutterotti, Cellerys also includes Mireia Sospedra, German biotech founder Erich Greiner and Nicolas Martin, a financial expert. The next step is to test the efficacy of the procedure in several European countries in a larger proof-of-concept clinical trial. The study will last three years and the costs will be borne by Novartis, which partners with Cellerys on the clinical development of CLS12311. It is expected to take six to eight years until the therapy can be approved. If Cellerys new therapy lives up to it hopes, it could become a veritable game changer for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
Find here the full press release from Novartis (in German).