February 28, 2019
Proteins of the immune system, known as type I interferons, are responsible in part for manifestations of lupus. For this reason, type I interferons are a very attractive target for lupus drug development. In 2015, excitement surrounded the release of positive phase II data with anifrolumab, a therapeutic antibody that blocks type I interferons. Applying a different approach than has previously been utilized, Dr. Richard Furie of the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and colleagues reported a novel strategy to shut off production of type I interferons at the source.
In this multicenter clinical trial, the investigators administered a monoclonal antibody called BIIB059 that was previously shown to turn off production of type I interferons as well as other proinflammatory molecules. Recently reported in theJournal of Clinical Investigation, the study, which included 54 healthy people and 12 patients with cutaneous lupus, demonstrated that the drug is safe and reduces lupus skin disease activity.
Dr. Furie notes, “This paper reports on the early Phase I development of the antibody BIIB059 directed against BDCA2, a protein unique to cells (known as plasmacytoid dendritic cells) that are the major producers of type I interferons, proteins that play a key role in inflammation.”
Dr. Furie is involved in a Phase II trial exploring the effectiveness of BIIB059 in patients with lupus or cutaneous lupus. BIIB059 is under development by the biotechnology company Biogen Inc.
“Many companies are developing drugs that target the interferon pathway as a strategy to reduce disease activity in people with lupus,” Dr. Furie continued. “The lupus community eagerly awaits the results of these clinical investigations.”
Lupus Research Alliance Research Director Dr. Teodora Staeva commented, “We have supported many studies demonstrating the importance of type I interferons in affecting lupus symptoms. The positive results of this Phase I trial of BIIB059 reaffirms earlier work, and we very much look forward to seeing the outcome of the ongoing Phase II trial.”