Antibody therapy for the treatment of chronic inflammation

University of Melbourne researchers discovered versatile proteins that can help treat chronic inflammation. With the partnership of a global pharmaceutical company, this technology is being trailed to help rheumatoid arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis.

The technology

Professor John Hamilton and Professor Gary Anderson, from the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, have researched the role of a specific class of proteins that are central mediators of inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis.

The proteins focussed on in the study, GM-CSF and M-CSF, were originally described as a white blood cell growth factor, but due to their diverse functions in the immune system they are also antibody targets for a broad spectrum of anti-inflammatory therapies, including rheumatoid arthritis.

The partnership

This discovery led to a successful patent application in the US, which covered methods of treatment of chronic inflammation by administrating an antibody specific for GM-CSF or M-CSF. In 2008, the University of Melbourne granted a company called MorphoSys the exclusive rights, which are sublicensed to GSK, to commercialise this research.

MorphoSys AG, based in Germany, has since focussed on the development of fully human antibodies for treating infectious diseases, cancer and inflammation. From this development, MorphoSys created MOR103 – a fully human HuCAL antibody directed against GM-CSF. MOR103 is currently in clinical trial for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis.

The outcome

While MorphoSys AG has therapeutic and research alliances with many pharmaceutical companies – such as Boehringer Ingelheim, Centocer/Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Pfizer and Roche – In June 2013, MorphoSys AG announced that it entered into a global agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Together, they’ll develop and commercialise MOR103 and under the terms of the agreement, GSK will assume responsibility for all subsequent development and commercialisation of MOR103.