By Phoebe Dey
March 20, 2001 - For "just 21 years" Dr. Ingrid Catz and Dr. Ken Warren have been studying ways to improve the lives of people living with multiple sclerosis. Now, their work may be starting to pay off.
In the early 1990s, Catz and Warren, from the University of Alberta's MS Patient Care and Research Clinic, identified Myelin Basic Protein (MBP8298), a synthetic peptide comprised of 17 amino acids, which they injected into chronic, progressive multiple sclerosis patients. The pair is currently wrapping up Phase II human clinical trials on the peptide and are now watching the promising results come in.
"There are a lot of variables with the disease and within the population, and there's a lot of work still to be done before we see it on the drug store shelf," said Katz.
There are an estimated 2.5 million multiple sclerosis patients worldwide--approximately half of which have the chronic, progressive form of the disease.
During an MS attack, inflammation occurs in areas of white matter of the central nervous system, in random patches called plaques. This process is followed by destruction of myelin, which insulates nerve-cell fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin facilitates the smooth, high-speed transmission of electrochemical messages between the brain, the spinal cord, and the rest of the body. By injecting synthetically produced MBP8298 into patients, Catz and Warren have been able to induce remission and regulate antibody production.
Phase I studies have shown--the findings were published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis--that a significant number of chronic progressive MS patients who have received the peptide intravenously have had their condition put into remission, as measured by antibody regulation.
"It's been just 21 years that we've been working on this and we've become very close to the patients," said Catz. "They have made this possible by enrolling in an experimental study without knowing what would happen. They have been very loyal and didn't drop out."
Once the Phase II trials wrap up in June, Catz and Warren will "pass the torch" to colleagues at the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto. "There are rules that inventors cannot be involved in the Phase III trials. We would like everything to be done properly and ethically and don't want to see any of this rushed. We'll now let these people decide just how good this compound may be."
The MBP8298 peptide technology has been patented by the U of A and licensed to Rycor, an Edmonton-based company. Rycor announced today that it will begin selling public shares of its company March 20, 2001.
Related link - internal
The U of A Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry Web site: http://www.med.ualberta.ca/
Related link - external
The Rycor Technology
Web site: http://www.rycortech.com