More MS news articles for July 2000

Scientists discover new way to regulate enzyme responsible for controlling the immune system

Discovery could lead to new and better treatments for arthritis, AIDS, cancer

Thursday July 6, 1:10 pm Eastern Time
Company Press Release
SOURCE: Kinetek Pharmaceuticals Inc.

TORONTO, July 6 /CNW-PRN/ - The role of an enzyme involved in the regulation of many inflammatory diseases has been discovered for the first time by a team of researchers at Princess Margaret Hospital's Ontario Cancer Institute. The finding paves the way for future research into new treatments for many inflammatory diseases, diabetes and some forms of cancer, and is reported in the July 6 issue of the journal Nature. The research was funded in part by the Medical Research Council of Canada and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The discovery has been optioned exclusively to Vancouver-based Kinetek Pharmaceuticals, which will continue work on developing it for future therapeutic use.

The research focuses on a gene called GSK-3B which produces an enzyme that is critical in relaying genetic information or cellular "signals" that control early embryonic development and cell growth in adults. In a world-first, scientists led by the paper's principal author Dr. James Woodgett, Head of the Division of Experimental Therapeutics at Princess Margaret Hospital's Ontario Cancer Institute, Professor at the University of Toronto, discovered a new way in which this gene can control the body's immune system, opening the door for the future development of new treatments for many autoimmune diseases.

"Our paper brings attention to a new regulator of a very important transcription factor that we have been working on for over ten years. Many of the genes it controls are involved in inflammatory diseases," said Dr. Woodgett. "Kinetek has a wonderful opportunity to take this completely new discovery from the laboratory and possibly move it to the bedside in the form of new therapeutic approaches to various diseases."

Master control of autoimmune response

The body's immune system is regulated by several critical master proteins including a DNA-binding protein called NF-kB. Dr. Woodgett and his team found that GSK-3B influences the activity of NF-kB. According to co-first author Klaus Hoeflich, a Ph.D. candidate in medical biophysics at the University of Toronto and a researcher in Dr. Woodgett's laboratory at the Ontario Cancer Institute, cells that have a defective GSK-3B gene are unable to react normally to the threat of disease or infection.

"We found that the GSK-3B gene actually controls NF-kB's ability to determine the fate of cells," said Mr. Hoeflich. "If the gene is inactive, as a result of a mutation or a chemical inhibitor, it prevents the activation of proteins that control the immune system. In effect we have found a new way to control the immune system. This finding could lead to the design of the next generation of anti-inflammatory drugs."

NF-kB has been linked to many diseases, including inflammatory and autoimmune disorders like meningitis, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis and AIDS, as well as diabetes and some forms of cancer, all of which are the result of abnormal gene expression. Over 100,000 Canadians suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, of which Crohn's is the most common. Arthritis exists in over 100 forms and is responsible for disabling over 600,000 Canadians and affecting more than four million people, including men, women and children. Rheumatoid arthritis affects nearly 300,000 Canadians and two million Americans while over 20 million people in North America suffer from other inflammatory diseases such as asthma, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.

Kinetek Pharmaceuticals has been working on GSK-3B as a therapeutic target for 3 years. The company has identified several inhibitors of GSK-3B using KiNet(TM), its proprietary drug screening program. Kinetek expects to continue work on validation of GSK-3B as a potential therapeutic target and has secured the rights to target GSK-3B as a way to control NF-kB activity. "We believe that by inhibiting GSK-3B with our potent and selective inhibitors, we can moderate NF-kB activity," said Dr. Jasbinder Sanghera, Vice President Discovery at Kinetek.

Technology transfer - a "virtuous circle"

According to Bob McArthur, Director of Technology Transfer and Research Business Development at the University Health Network, this partnership between the Ontario Cancer Institute and Kinetek Pharmaceuticals is a good example of "the virtuous circle of technology transfer."

"Our world class scientists make critical discoveries and we work to commercialize them by licensing intellectual property to companies like Kinetek that bring the focus, financial resources and management skills necessary to turn research breakthroughs into products to help people," said McArthur. "It is only through the commercialization process that discoveries are turned into tools and technologies for understanding, diagnosing and treating disease. We reinvest all revenues that we generate through commercial partnerships in the outstanding research programs at the Ontario Cancer Institute."

Kinetek's objective is to build a world-class biopharmaceutical company that discovers and develops superior drugs targeting defects in signal transduction pathways causal of disease. Kinetek is developing a pipeline of novel anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory compounds, with the objective of each program to develop oral drugs to be used in mono and/or combination therapies.

Princess Margaret Hospital, and its research arm the Ontario Cancer Institute, has achieved an international reputation as a global leader in the fight against cancer and is considered one of the top comprehensive cancer research and treatment centres in the world. PMH is a member of the University Health Network, which also includes Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital. The Ontario Cancer Institute has formed collaborations with dozens of companies in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device industries to design and commercialize new discoveries and technologies for understanding, diagnosing and treating human disease.

The matters contained in this news release relating to clinical trials, beliefs, expectations, and future strategies are forward-looking statements. Kinetek undertakes no obligation to publicly release the results of any revision to these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.

SOURCE: Kinetek Pharmaceuticals Inc.