New Biotech in Oxford Takes on Arthritis of the Spine

Izana Bioscience has been launched today to develop an antibody to treat ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine. 

Oxford’s newest biotech, Izana Bioscience, has an exclusive license from Takeda to develop the antibody drug Namilumab (IZN-101) and a £1.35M grant from Innovate UK to fund a Phase II study. The company plans to recruit 30 patients for the trial, expected to start in the first half of 2018.

Namilumab is a human antibody that targets granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF). The antibody was originally developed by Micromet, a Munich-based biotech that pioneered bispecific antibodies and sold to Amgen for $1.2Bn in 2012. Namilumab now belongs to Takeda, which is running a Phase II clinical trial with the antibody in rheumatoid arthritis.

Izana Bioscience will explore a new indication for namilumab: ankylosing spondylitis. This severe form of arthritis affects the spine of over 4 million people worldwide, but treatment options are limited and are not effective in about 50% of patients, according to Izana. The market for ankylosing spondylitis is predicted to reach a substantial $5Bn by 2020, but Izana has to prove first that the antibody works in this indication. In May this year, Takeda discontinued the development of namilumab in plaque psoriasis after a Phase II trial failed to meet its primary endpoint.

Image via Lightspring /Shutterstock

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