Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc., a late-stage clinical oncology company, has announced that it will advance with its immunotherapy targeting WNT1-Inducible Signaling Protein-1 (WISP1) for the potential treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
IPF is a chronic and fatal disease that occurs in individuals between 50 and 70 years of age, particularly those with a history of cigarette smoking, affecting more that 100,000 Americans.
It is characterized by a progressive decline in lung function, with severe scarring of lung tissues that results in dyspnea, or shortness of breath. Pulmonary hypertension is a closely associated result of the disease.
WISP1 is an autocrine and paracrine extracellular stimulus involved in several damaging profibrotic processes. Several preclinical studies have demonstrated that WISP1 can be induced in lung cells by profibrotic growth factors such as TGF-beta. In IPF patients, there is an upregulation of this protein at the alveolar epithelial surface, causing hyperplasia and proliferation of alveolar epithelial cells along increased expression of matrix metalloproteinases and fibroblast-like phenotypic changes. Moreover, upon WISP1 depletion, mice models of IPF showed attenuated symptoms, further proving the involvement of WISP1 in the progression of this disease.
“New anti-fibrotic drugs are desperately needed to treat IPF, which is a progressive, chronically debilitating clinical syndrome with unknown etiology and a terminal outcome. Therefore, we are grateful to NHBLI and NIH for their support of our anti-WISP1 antibody program. In addition, we are very excited to have received our third NIH grant this year supporting our innovative immunotherapies based on Sorrento’s G-MAB antibody library, which will allow Sorrento to advance several antibody programs targeting unmet medical needs outside of oncology,” Henry Ji, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Sorrento said in the company’s press release.
To be able to develop this experimental drug, Sorrento was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Dr. Gunnar F. Kaufmann, Sorrento’s Senior Director of R&D and principal investigator on the SBIR grant, will work at the Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC) in Munich Germany together with Dr. Melanie Konigshoff, an expert on developmental signaling pathways in chronic lung disease, including IPF.