February 28, 2019
The biotechnology company Equillium Inc. just announced plans for a Phase 1 study to test the investigational monoclonal antibody EQ001 as a potential treatment for lupus nephritis (LN) that has not responded to existing treatment.
The basis for this study is in part due to work conducted by Dr. Chandra Mohan that was funded by the Lupus Research Alliance. With his Target Identification in Lupus grant from the LRA, Dr. Mohan discovered a strategy using a biomarker in the urine to identify lupus nephritis patients most likely to respond best to therapy, monitor the disease and guide treatment. In comparing the levels of 1,100 proteins in the urine of lupus patients and healthy controls, Dr. Mohan had found several differences, and one in particular stood out. The protein ALCAM (CD6-activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule) was consistently higher in those with lupus compared to the controls. ALCAM is a small molecule on the outside of T cells of the immune system that helps the T cells move through the tissues of the body, including the kidney.
EQ001 blocks the ALCAM pathway that Dr. Mohan found.
Lupus Research Alliance president and chief executive officer Kenneth M. Farber added, “Lupus nephritis is one of the most common and dangerous complications of lupus. Enabling the generation of therapies for this condition is critical to the Lupus Research Alliance. Using urinary biomarkers to guide therapeutic development aligns with our strategy of supporting work that will help accelerate delivery of new treatments.”
“Our decision to explore EQ001 for the treatment of lupus nephritis is consistent with our goal of developing promising new therapies that help patients with severe and underserved autoimmune diseases,” said Daniel Bradbury, chairman and chief executive officer of Equillium. “With over 100,000 LN patients in the United States alone and no currently FDA-approved therapies, there is a strong clinical rationale for pursuing this indication. Additionally, we believe EQ001’s unique mechanism of modulating both the activity and trafficking of pathogenic T cells provides a strong scientific rationale and highly differentiated approach to treat this difficult disease.”