A New Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
A German biotechnology company is developing an antibody which could revolutionise treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Munich based Morphosys, are developing an antibody which is targeting at blocking a protein called granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF).
The idea of blocking GM-CSF is because it is a growth factor in producing white blood cells, which are found in abundance in the inflamed joints of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
It is a disorder of the immune system that causes the body to be unable to differentiate between foreign antigens and healthy cells. As a consequence the body produces an excess flow of white blood cells (in order to fight what it mistakenly identifies as a foreign agent) which ultimately, cause inflammation of the joints. This is not only painful, but can cause joint deformation.
GM-CSF is a hematopoietic cytokine and is naturally produced by the body's immune system. It is produced by B cells, Tcells, macrophages, mast cells, endothelial cells and fibroblasts. It is human specific and, therefore a company like Morphosys (whose platform produces human antibodies) has an edge in developing a blocker for it.
GM-CSF has a wide and diverse usage in the bodies immune system and can, therefore, be used across a number of indications.
A New Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis as well as Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Morphosys MOR103 is being developed to block GM-CSF and is currently in a phase 1b/2a trial for rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, the company are so encouraged by this trial that they have decided to take MOR103 into a phase 1b trial in multiple sclerosis in the second half of 2011. The possibility exists for MOR103 to be taken into development for asthma as well. This would most likely be by Morphosys as they own the exclusive access to rights over the use of developing GM-CSF for anti-inflammatory diseases in the United States.
With regards the ongoing Phase 1b/2a clinical trial for rheumatoid arthritis patients, the final results are likely to be in 2012.
These are exciting developments and auger well for producing new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers and multiple sclerosis patients.