Dendright strides forward with early clinical trial success for new rheumatoid arthritis treatment

BRISBANE, 4 June, 2015

Professor Ranjeny Thomas, Dendright’s Chief Technical Officer, published Phase 1 clinical trial results today in Science Translational Medicine, demonstrating that a novel potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is safe and effective in suppressing the immune response.

Professor Thomas said the treatment targeted the underlying cause of rheumatoid arthritis.

“Current therapies only treat the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease,” Professor Thomas said.

“We have designed a vaccine-style treatment or ‘immunotherapy’ specifically for individuals carrying high-risk rheumatoid arthritis genes and specific rheumatoid arthritis antibodies, called anti-CCP.

“This type of rheumatoid arthritis is called ‘CCP-positive’ and accounts for the majority of cases.

“Our immune system is made up of specialised cells that move through blood and tissue, preventing disease and fighting infection by distinguishing between what is the body’s own healthy tissue and what is foreign.

“This treatment teaches the patient’s immune system to ignore a naturally occurring peptide that is incorrectly identified as ‘foreign’, resulting in the production of CCP antibodies and causing inflammation.

“A personalised immunotherapy was prepared for each patient by taking a sample of their blood and extracting a particular type of immune cell called dendritic cells.

“The patient’s dendritic cells were then challenged with the ‘foreign’ peptide and an immune system modulator.

“The treated dendritic cells were then injected back into the patient.”

Professor Thomas said a single injection of the patient’s own immune-modified dendritic cells was found to be safe and to help suppress the immune response in rheumatoid arthritis.

“This in turn was associated with reduced inflammation.

“At this stage, the technique would not be ideal for widespread treatment or prevention of rheumatoid arthritis because it’s costly and time-consuming.

“However, the promising results of this trial lay the foundations for the development of a more cost-effective, clinically-practical vaccine technology that could deliver similar outcomes for patients. 

Dendright Pty Ltd, a UniQuest start-up company, is working on a delivery technology in collaboration with Janssen Biotech Inc., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. 

If the delivery of this technology proves successful in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, it could also be applied to other autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes.

UniQuest Pty Limited, the main technology transfer and commercialization company for The University of Queensland, identified the potential for intellectual property protection with the invention and initiated the filing and successfully managed the patent application process through to grant in accordance with UniQuest’s exclusive licence to Dendright Pty Ltd.

Watch a video of Professor Ranjeny Thomas explaining the new treatment.

Media Enquiries:

Helen Roberts, CEO, +61 (0) 419 657504, 

About Dendright Pty Ltd

Dendright Pty Ltd was established in 2005 by UniQuest and assisted by grants from the Queensland Government’s Innovation Start-up Scheme and the Australian Government’s Biotechnology Innovation Fund so that Professor Ranjeny Thomas and her team could focus on finding a way for the body’s own immune system to “re-educate” the cells that cause autoimmune diseases. Professor Thomas’ research at the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute has also been supported by Arthritis Queensland, a peak community organisation, the Australian Research Council and Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council. In addition to the Rheumatoid Arthritis therapy in preclinical development, the Dendright platform technology is being used to develop new therapies for type 1 diabetes.

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