Apitope is developing innovative therapeutic peptides for the treatment of autoimmune and allergic diseases. In a healthy individual, the body’s immune system works to serve as protection from infections and cancer. However, an abnormal immune response to the body’s own proteins (e.g. the myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibres in MS), or exogenous proteins (e.g. pollen or a food constituent) can cause serious life threatening damage to the body. An ideal therapeutic strategy for autoimmune or allergic disorders would aim to reinstate the normal immune balance, whilst avoiding global immune suppression and hence maintain the immune response to infectious agents.
Apitopes® are designed to have the potential to treat the underlying cause of the disease rather than simply treating disease symptoms, all without non-specifically suppressing the whole or large portions of the immune system. Apitope’s therapeutic approach is based on well-established scientific evidence showing that soluble, synthetic peptides can reinstate normal and/or attenuate abnormal immune responses through the induction of a naturally occurring population of IL-10 secreting regulatory T cells (Treg).
The primary molecular target for Apitopes® is the MHC II protein on antigen presenting cells (APCs). Binding of Apitopes® to MHC II on APCs and presentation to naïve T cells results in induction of Treg cells. These cells synthesise interleukin 10 (IL-10) to selectively suppress antigen-specific helper T cells, which are responsible for the aberrant pathology and inhibit the production of pro-allergic and pro-inflammatory cytokines.
This suppresses antigen-induced autoimmune disease. This mechanism of action is common to many other peptides that have been clinically evaluated for the potential treatment of autoimmune diseases, e.g. Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as cat allergy. Although allergen/auto-antigen therapies aiming to induce tolerance in immunological disorders have been in medical use for many years, the direct administration of soluble T-cell peptide epitopes to human patients with the goal of reducing the number of auto-reactive T cells is relatively new and remains an exciting possibility.