Geneuro will develop therapeutic antibodies for ALS that will be tested in disease models at the US National Institutes of Health.

Geneuro, based in Geneva, uses a unique approach to treating neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases. Its antibodies target human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) that inserted their genetic material into the human genome in ancient times. Although they’re inactive in most people, HERVs can start expressing their DNA in certain people, causing disease.

It is not known why these viruses get activated, but Geneuro is developing treatments to stop them when they do. Its lead product, now in Phase IIb, targets multiple sclerosis (MS), while other candidates go after type 1 diabetes and a rare autoimmune disorder of the nervous system, CIDP. Unlike current treatments for these diseases, Geneuro’s strategy aims to target one of the causes behind them.

The research group of Dr. Avindra Nath at the NIH recently discovered that the expression of the HERV-K envelope protein is involved in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The team will use cellular and transgenic mouse models to evaluate anti-HERV-K antibody candidates developed by Geneuro.

geneuro nih antibody als virus

As is the case for MS, there are no available drugs to stop the progression of ALS. Geneuro could change that, but it is not the only company trying to do so. From young companies like the newborn Swiss biotech AL-S Pharma to experienced players like the German Evotec, many are trying to put an end to this situation.

A remarkable case is that of Treeway, from the Netherlands. The company, co-founded by a patient with ALS, has an oral drug candidate for ALS in clinical trials and a gene therapy in the works in collaboration with uniQure.

However, Geneuro is to our knowledge the first and only company targeting HERVs in ALS, a cause of the disease rather than a consequence of it. In addition, in our interview with Miguel Payro, CFO of Geneuro, he explained that their antibodies have proved to have excellent safety and tolerability profiles, which could give the company a headstart over competitors in the ALS space.

Images from Rost9 /Shutterstock

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  • Sylvia buxcey

    Please make this break through quickly. Too many are dying from ALS, also known as Motor Nuerone Disease in the U.K. My husband died within 18 months, I said this was triggered by a virus. He had two bad viruses in the year before he was diagnosed and now it seems they could have triggered an ancient HERV causing his motor neurones to die!?
    Please allow people who have this disease the early access to trial and experimental drugs. My husband would gladly have died trying to live.

    • Deb

      Studying my sister’s health and family history through the research papers I traced back to an endogenous retrovirus on chromosome 6, C4 of complement. Microbes have what’s known as complement evasion strategies and they capture parts of C4 to turn down the amplification loop that is supposed to get complement going so the body kills the microbe. So the body has to make more C4. About 25% of people don’t have herv-k there, and there is varying numbers of copies of herv-k there for the rest of us and I think some people have a bad copy.

      I think factor h is involved as well because it and the C4BP are involved because they also play regulatory roles in complement.

  • This would seem to be the ultimate “right to try” situation for those already farther along in the ALS disease. Even a small chance to stop, or perhaps a little reversal, would help my wife as she battles the disease where medical authorities simply seem to be monitoring her demise. She’s reached a point of advance where anything would be better than what lies ahead. We read so much about hope on the horizon but no one advocates for the patient fighting the daily fight. Please allow us to get involved in any significant phase of these trials.