Efforts focused on HLA-DQ8 targeting small molecule candidate IMT-002 + expanding portfolio of HLA-blockers
ImmunoMolecular Therapeutics (IMT) recently announced $10 million in Series A funding to advance its Human Leukocyte A (HLA) blockade portfolio and develop its lead candidate IMT-002 in type 1 diabetes. Funding was provided by the JDRF T1 fund and Morningside Ventures, along with participation from the University of Colorado’s Healthcare Innovation Fund.
IMT-002, the company’s most promising candidate, is an oral formulation of methyldopa (MDOPA) that is meant to replicate its benefits in type 1 without blood pressure lowering side effects. Previous preclinical research from the company has shown that blocking HLA gene variants (such as HLA DQ8, the target of IMT-002) with the oral small molecule, blood-pressure lowering medication MDOPA can subsequently halt the autoimmune response cascade associated with type 1 progression. Last November the company announced plans for an IND filing in 2019, supported by an SBIR grant and a Rare Pediatric Disease designation from the FDA. No update was provided about the timing of future clinical trials for IMT-002.
An earlier JDRF-funded phase 1b trial of patients with recent-onset type 1 and positive for DQ8 (n=30) demonstrated that treatment with MDOPA successfully blocks DQ8 and reduces inflammatory T-cell response to insulin. The single-arm, open label dose escalation study (completed in February 2016, results announced in February 2018) found that DQ8 presentation was 40% inhibited compared to baseline levels, with 85% of patients showing reduced inflammatory T-cell responses toward insulin.
IMT-002 represents the first-in-class HLA blocking drug in the type 1 cures landscape, and IM Therapeutics is planning on further expanding their portfolio of HLA targets with new funding. Applications of a more diverse HLA-targeting portfolio could include other autoimmune diseases such as Celiac disease.
As a sidenote, IMT’s website provides helpful background on autoimmune diseases. Specifically, it shares that autoimmune diseases affect about 4% of the world’s population and are made up of over 80 different disease conditions. It emphasizes, “no targeted therapy exists that would allow pre-selection of a patient for treatment designed specifically against the autoimmune condition”.
--by Ursula Biba, Rhea Teng, Martin Kurian, and Kelly Close