Our lead program, CONJUMAB-A, offers an important advantage to the Aβ antibodies currently in clinical development for both AD and AMD by several large pharmaceutical companies. This is because those antibodies (e.g. solanezumab, bapineuzumab, gantenerumab, crenzeumab, RN6G and GSK33766A) are designed for a single purpose, namely to clear Aβ, while none act on the important secondary neurotoxic mechanisms, such as oxidative stress that causes most of the damage from Aβ. By contrast, CONJUMAB-A is empowered with a potent antioxidant. An important step in establishing proof-of-principle was the initial data generated through our collaboration with iNovacia to evaluate compounds synthesized by Lonza for Intellect. The data demonstrated the conjugation of the antioxidant molecule to an amino acid does not reduce its antioxidant activity. Pending adequate financial resources, these studies, which are almost complete, will allow us to select a drug candidate to take into development, providing the trigger for us to move forward with LONZA into an expanded manufacturing project, bringing us closer to the submission of an Investigational New Drug application.
In principle, our approach could be applied to improve many different types of antibodies, such as those that previously disappointed in clinical trials. However, currently we are focused on optimizing CONJUMAB-A using our own humanized antibody IN-N01, which targets the N-terminus of Aβ. We believe IN-N01 to be superior to bapineuzumab because of its reduced potential to cause inflammation that results from our reengineering into an IgG4 class antibody.
Among several potential indications, we have decided to focus on AMD since both AMD and AD share several similarities, while the eye offers less challenge for delivering the drug. Indeed, physicians routinely perform injections into the eye cavity. Moreover, AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 55, most of who respond poorly or not at all to existing therapies. While the relatively recent introduction of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor agents, such as intravitreal bevacizumab and ranibizumab, appear to have improved the prognosis for patients with wet AMD, preclinical studies have raised a potential red flag on anti- VEGF therapies, suggesting that increasingly aggressive use in eye disease could trigger side effects and potentially cause long-term damage. Moreover, no one has been able to develop an effective treatment for dry AMD, which is a significantly larger population, as it is the precursor to wet AMD.
Ample evidence has established oxidative stress as an important contributor in the pathogenesis of AMD and several studies have indicated antioxidant molecules can help reduce damage to the retina. Various Aβ-lowering and Aβ-neuroprotective strategies have demonstrated the ability to protect against damage in various models of retinal degeneration, including Aβ-specific antibodies. Two such antibodies, GSK933766A and RN6Gare being tested in Phase 2 AMD trials having demonstrated an ability to reduce damage to RPE cells in animal models following systemic administration. These data lead us to believe CONJUMAB-A has the potential to become a strong leader in the field based on its combined properties to remove Aβ and reduce oxidative stress when delivered in high concentrations directly to the eye.