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Benlysta May Lead Wave Of New Approvals For Lupus Drugs

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

The looming approval of Benlysta may create an easier pathway to approval for other lupus candidates, while leaving a potentially broad opportunity for other drugs to fill gaps in its label. Start-Up profiles three emerging lupus drug developers: Azano Pharmaceuticals, Resolve Therapeutics and SuppreMol

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Resolve Therapeutics LLC

A growing number of competing companies are taking fresh approaches to treating lupus. Genentech and MedImmune, for instance, are each working on antibodies intended to directly bind the cytokine known as interferon-alpha, and inhibit its inflammatory effects. Start-up Resolve Therapeutics LLC is developing a compound intended to act in the same pathway as Genentech's and MedImmune's antibodies, but upstream of alpha-interferon. The idea is not to block production of interferon itself, but rather to block events that company founders believe trigger alpha-interferon production in lupus patients.

SuppreMol GMBH

SuppreMol GMBH is developing a recombinant version of human Fcy receptor FcyRIIb, now in Phase IIa for SLE. This candidate competes with membrane-bound Fcy receptors on immune cells, preventing binding of immune complexes containing autoantigens and inhibiting re-stimulation of immune cells. This down-regulates the B cells specifically involved in the autoimmune response, but does not affect B cells that are part of the normal immune response.

Azano Pharmaceuticals Inc.

While systemic lupus erythematosus is characterized by widespread inflammation, it is also a disease that correlates so frequently with kidney inflammation that clinicians diagnose and treat "lupus nephritis" as a distinct aspect of the condition. Azano Pharmaceuticals Inc. was established to develop C-reactive protein as a treatment for lupus nephritis. Though elevated blood levels of CRP are widely considered a biomarker of cardiovascular disease, Azano's founders say CRP also appears to have anti-inflammatory properties that might one day help lupus patients.

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