Swiss Antibodies and the US NIH will fight Ancient Viral DNA causing ALS

08/02/2017 - 2 minutes

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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