Microscope photo of a human large intestine section with inflammation
Credit: weisschr/Getty Images

Clinical-stage biopharma Qu Biologics has announced a collaboration with Sweden’s Karolinska Institute (KI) to characterize the molecular targets of Qu’s Site Specific Immunomodulators (SSIs), an immunotherapy platform designed to restore innate immune function. The research will be led by Prof. Jonas Fuxe, who will become the head of laboratory medicine at KI starting January 1, and characterize the molecular targets of Qu’s SSI therapy at the tissue level that lead to resolution of disease. This work will include assessment of tissue biopsies from the gastrointestinal (GI) tracts of patients with moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease (CD) who experienced histological healing upon treatment with QBECO, Qu’s GI-targeting SSI.

According to Qu, the company is taking a novel approach to the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s, by applying an immunotherapy that seeks to restore immune function as a treatment, as opposed to current methods which seek to suppress immune response. In the case of IBD, epithelial cells play key role in the development of disease. Serving as the immune interface between microbes and human tissue, the loss of epithelial cells on mucosal surfaces is associated with the chronic inflammation characteristic of IBDs. The QBECO SSI treatment is designed to restore normal innate immune function, immune homeostasis, and barrier function in the GI tract, provides a novel alternative to immunosuppressive therapies for patients living with IBD.

“Molecular characterization of how QBECO SSI leads to disease resolution in the GI tract in patients with IBD has the potential to identify which patients are most likely to benefit from this innovative approach to restore gastrointestinal health, which could be life-changing for these patients. We are very excited to be working with Associate Professor Fuxe and his team at KI to address this critically important issue,” said Hal Gunn, CEO of Qu Biologics.

In the collaboration with KI, Qu scientists will work with Fuxe and his team to validate, at the tissue level, data demonstrating that the expression of genes associated with damaging, unproductive inflammation that disrupt epithelial barrier function can be normalized in the GI tract of patients with moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease upon treatment with QBECO SSI. Further, Fuxe—who is a recognized expert in epithelial cell biology—will also seek to develop a better understanding of epithelial integrity and plasticity in the context of immune dysfunction, and how treatment the SSI helps restore function. The research also has the potential, based on tissue profiling data, to develop diagnostic methods to help define those patients most likely to benefit from the SSI, to provide a precision medicine approach to treating CD.

“We have a long-standing interest in identifying mechanisms and targets that may prevent loss of epithelial integrity in chronic inflammatory and cancer diseases. We are excited by the collaboration with Qu Biologics, which timely opens new avenues to explore links between epithelial and immune dysfunction,” said Fuxe.

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