Neovacs, a French biotech, has shown its lupus vaccine can be effective in treating this severe autoimmune disease.
Its lupus vaccine works by stimulating the patient’s immune system to produce antibodies against a protein called IFNα that regulates the immune system and is involved in the disease.
The study enrolled 185 patients around the globe with moderate to severe lupus. The vaccine, IFNα Kinoid, significantly reduced the amount of interferons in the blood — proteins that are produced in response to disease-causing microbes — 36 weeks into the study. Given the promising results, the company plans to move its vaccine into Phase III testing.
IFNα Kinoid is made of inactivated IFNα coupled to a carrier protein. This combination of proteins provokes an immune response from white blood cells and stimulates them to produce antibodies against IFNα in lupus patients.
Most vaccines use monoclonal antibodies, which target only one binding site on a disease-causing compound. Neovacs’ approach, on the other hand, uses polyclonal antibodies, which target all of the binding sites on a disease-causing compound. Furthermore, polyclonal antibodies are less likely to lead to resistance after long treatment periods.
Lupus affects around 5 million people worldwide, making it one of the most common rare diseases. There is no cure for the disease, and it is commonly treated with corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation. However, long-term steroid use increases the risk of infections, which is one of the leading causing of death in lupus patients.
Finding new and better treatments for lupus has not been easy. In 2015, Belgian biotech UCB’s lead immunology candidate for treating lupus failed in Phase III, after 9 years of research going into its development. GSK’s monoclonal antibody Belimumab was the first therapy to reach the market in 50 years in 2011, but the drug has not always been effective and is not a first choice for doctors. If Neovacs’ success continues in Phase III, its lupus vaccine may break this trend.
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