Two Institute of Applied Life Sciences (IALS) researchers, organic and polymer chemist Thai Thayumanavan and professor of animal science Lisa Minter, have partnered with Anika Therapeutics Inc. of Bedford to co-develop a new product for treating the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis.
The work is part of Phase II of a continuing relationship between IALS and Anika.
Thayumanavan and Minter say this next phase of the collaboration builds on Thayumanavan’s expertise in delivering molecules into cells in a targeted and specific way and Minter’s expertise in autoimmune disease. They and the company will focus on research to optimize a drug delivery system to advance a new therapy candidate.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect many joints in the body by compromising the joint lining, the synovial membrane. The inflamed synovium leads to erosion of cartilage and bone, which can lead to joint deformity. It can also affect other organs. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 78 million adults will be diagnosed with the disorder in the United States by the year 2040. Anika has developed, manufactured and commercialized more than 20 products based on its proprietary technologies over the past 20 years.
As Thayumanavan recalls, “Lisa approached me about the potential development of a delivery system in collaboration with Anika. We were excited about giving this a try because in addition to the prospect of potentially developing a drug, it is exciting to collaborate with an incredible immunologist like Lisa. My group brought a new structure into play to develop a delivery vehicle appropriate for this type of administration and treatment.”
Thayumanavan has been developing the synthetic delivery system and Minter has been testing it in cells and in an animal model to evaluate the delivery and efficacy of the drug combinations and how they dial down, or modulate the immune response. “A fair amount of preliminary work is already done,” she notes. “We have enjoyed an exceptionally fruitful collaboration between our two labs, including postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and undergraduates.”
Thayumanavan points out, “The College of Natural Sciences has had an inherently friendly culture of building partnerships that is now being even more greatly facilitated by IALS, especially in identifying mutual interests and strengths between biotech companies and campus researchers. It has been really gratifying to see our two complementary strengths working together on this.”