A licensing deal for a treatment for anti-inflammatory diseases has been signed by the University of Strathclyde and US-based company Vimelea Therapeutics.
Vimelea has been established for the specific purpose of commercialising the technology, which will be developed to treat cutaneous lupus but which also has the potential to be used against arthritis, asthma and other inflammatory diseases.
The technology for this therapeutic platform has been developed in research at Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow.
Following successful laboratory tests, the treatment has been licensed exclusively to Vimelea with worldwide commercialisation rights. The compounds in development are small molecule analogues of a protein known as ES-62, which is produced by parasitic worms and has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Lupus is said to affect at least five million people worldwide. In addition to causing skin disease, in its most severe presentation, lupus causes inflammation of vital organs, including the heart, lungs and kidneys; it currently has no cure.
Professor William Harnett, of the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, said: "Lupus is not as common as arthritis or asthma but it can be life-threatening. It's a particular risk to women of child-bearing age and there's an urgent need for new treatments.
"We examined the effect of ES-62 in a model of lupus kidney disease and found it prevented development of symptoms and this effect was mimicked with the small molecule analogues. The aim now is to explore the potential of these molecules for treating cutaneous lupus."
Professor Colin Suckling, of Strathclyde's Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, said: "This has been a very unusual drug discovery project; we have found that the small molecule analogues reproduce remarkably well the beneficial effects of ES-62, which is not itself suitable for use as a drug.
"The fact that a company has been set up with the specific intention of applying this piece of science is significant. It shows that they have recognised something special in what we have been able to do and that it is worth picking up."
Dr Darius M Walker, Vimelea Therapeutic's Founder, said: "Our team is excited to pick up on the tremendous research program laid out by Professors Harnett and Suckling. A solid foundation has been set and Vimelea will shepherd the pre-clinical and clinical development of a platform of ES-62 small molecule analogues (SMAs) to treat a number of inflammatory diseases.
"Our initial therapeutic target is cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE), which has significant unmet medical needs. With the development of the SMAs, Vimelea expects to improve the quality of life for CLE patients by alleviating skin manifestations and related symptoms."
The licensing deal was overseen by Strathclyde's Innovation & Industry Engagement Directorate and by Louise McKean, Legal Counsel to the University. The process was led by Strathclyde IP and Commercialisation Manager Debbie Stack.