London, UK, 16 March 2021 - Alchemab, a biotech company developing novel therapeutics for patients with hard-to-treat diseases by harnessing the power of naturally protective antibodies, has been awarded a UK Biomedical Catalyst early award grant from Innovate UK to support the development of a novel disease-modifying antibody therapy for Huntington’s disease (HD). The grant will support Alchemab in its pioneering collaboration with Medicines Discovery Catapult.
Alchemab has a unique target-agnostic drug discovery approach focusing on naturally protective antibodies. Using this completely novel approach, Alchemab has identified a panel of antibodies with disease-modifying potential from HD patients. These patients demonstrated slower progression than expected based on their genetic predisposition. The antibodies that were common across these ‘resilient’ individuals were notably absent in patients with normal disease progression or healthy controls.
Using the Innovate UK grant, Alchemab will functionally characterise the panel of antibodies to identify lead candidates for first-in-human studies over the next 18 months. By determining the molecular target of these antibodies, and whether they can protect against pathological mechanisms of HD, it may be possible to develop a new disease-modifying therapy for patients who do not have a naturally protective antibody response. If successful, a therapy of this nature could be transformative in slowing or halting disease progression.
Alex Leech, CEO at Alchemab, said: “Receiving the Innovate UK Grant for our work in Huntington’s disease is fantastic validation of Alchemab’s unique approach to drug discovery and our extraordinary team of Cambridge-based scientists who are driving this project forward. We are proud to receive such important national recognition.”
He added: “The Huntington disease program combines our strength in antibody discovery and development and cutting-edge science and analytical techniques with the capabilities of the Medicines Discovery Catapult. We also have the benefit of having access to HD patient samples from CHDI Foundation. We are well positioned to discover and develop a potentially transformative therapy, whilst continuing the development of other programs across neurodegenerative disorders, oncology and infectious disease.”
The project will be conducted in collaboration with Medicines Discovery Catapult, drawing on its experience in the expression of iPSC-derived CNS cells – integral for studying brain diseases. The work will combine innovative phenotypic drug discovery using cutting-edge data-rich methods with the latest translational human cell models for neurodegenerative disease to accelerate clinical development. The patient samples used have been provided by CHDI Foundation, a non-profit biomedical research organisation dedicated to collaboratively developing therapeutics that substantially improve the lives of those affected by HD.
Dr Jane Osbourn, Chief Scientific Officer at Alchemab, added: “Huntington's disease is a devastating condition, leading to movement, cognitive and psychiatric disorders and ultimately progressive loss of function and death. There is currently no cure and no therapies able to slow the disease, only treatments to help manage the symptoms. Gaining a deeper understanding of the disease and how naturally occurring antibodies provide susceptible but resilient individuals with protection offers an exciting new development and potential future treatment option.”
Alchemab’s approach aims to understand how resilient individuals maintain health and show resistance to a disease, even if they are genetically predisposed or susceptible. The Company looks at the vast antibody repertoire that humans produce as part of their normal immune response to understand such adaptive immunity. Using the insights, Alchemab can identify naturally protective antibodies with therapeutic potential.
Professor Peter Simpson, Chief Scientific Officer at Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) said: “This project demonstrates world-leading innovation, involving unique interrogation into the differences in disease presentation. Research this partnership undertakes will be the bedrock of future treatment development, with the ultimate aim of extending and improving the lives of those living with this rare, degenerative condition.
“Alchemab’s approach turns the normal biotech drug discovery model on its head, looking at natural resilience to disease rather than the disease itself. MDC’s role is to continue to develop our iPSC-derived cell models to further understand the binding of different antibodies indicated by Alchemab to be of interest. We are excited to begin this invaluable collaboration, one which may completely transform our wider understanding of the pathophysiology of Huntington’s disease.”
Alchemab has developed a highly differentiated engine with the ability to identify novel drug targets and therapeutics on the basis of patient B-cell antibody repertoires. The engine uses high-quality patient samples and a range of functional and advanced analytical techniques to evaluate convergent protective antibody responses in individuals that are susceptible but resilient to specific diseases.
Alchemab is building on the outputs of its engine to produce a broad pipeline of protective therapeutics for hard-to-treat diseases, with an initial focus on oncology, neurodegenerative conditions and infectious diseases.
Alchemab was founded in 2019 and brings together expertise from Oxford, Cambridge, London in the UK and the United States, with seed funding from SV Health Investors, the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) and Data Collective VC (DCVC). The highly specialised patient samples that power Alchemab’s engine are made available through valued partnerships and collaborations with patient representative groups, biobanks and academic institutes.
Alchemab is led by highly experienced management and has an extended team of scientific founders and collaborators contributing cutting-edge technology and a deep understanding of antibody repertoires, bringing together a wide range of expertise from the fields of oncology, neuroscience, infectious diseases and computational biology.
Alchemab is headquartered in London, UK.
For more information, visit www.alchemab.co.uk.
About Medicines Discovery Catapult
Medicines Discovery Catapult is a national facility connecting the UK community to accelerate innovative drug discovery.
We’re a government funded, not-for-profit organisation, and this financial independence makes us unique. We’re able to take risks and pursue objectives that are understandably challenging for commercial for-profit companies. It’s the reason we’re able to focus so much of our effort on pioneering the next generation of medicine discovery techniques and technologies.
By validating new ways of discovering medicines and driving key talent and expertise across the sector, we will support the UK life sciences industry, SMEs and innovators to deliver growth for the UK economy and maintain the UK’s heritage position as a global leader in medicines R&D. Ultimately, new industrialised technologies are vital for delivering new medicines to patients, faster.
About CHDI Foundation, Inc
CHDI Foundation, Inc. is a privately-funded non-profit biomedical research organization that is exclusively dedicated to collaboratively developing therapeutics that substantially improve the lives of those affected by Huntington’s disease. As a collaborative enabler CHDI seeks to bring the right partners together to identify and address critical scientific issues and move drug candidates to clinical evaluation as quickly as possible. Our scientists work closely with a network of more than 700 researchers in academic and industrial laboratories around the world in the pursuit of these novel therapies, providing strategic scientific direction to ensure that our common goals remain in focus. More information about CHDI can be found at www.chdifoundation.org.
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Melanie Toyne-SewellManaging Partner