A research group from UCL's Centre for Rheumatology has been awarded a £3.5 million grant from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to advance the development of a novel treatment for anti-phospholipid syndrome (APS) based on UK life sciences group Abzena's proprietary conjugation technology.

APS is a disorder of the immune system, where abnormal antibodies, called antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL) are produced which bind to beta-2-glycoprotein (beta-2-GPI) in the blood and increase the risk of clotting. Consequently, patients with APS are more likely to have a stroke or heart attack and pregnant women with APS have an increased risk of recurrent miscarriage.

The current standard treatment is with anticoagulants, such as warfarin, but these carry a significant risk of bleeding so there is a need for alternative options.

Professor Anisur Rahman and his team at UCL discovered that an agent derived from a part of the beta-2-GPI molecule known as Domain I (DI) blocked the binding of aPL to beta-2-GPI, and was shown to prevent clotting in a preclinical trial. The team used Abzena's technology to modify DI in a way designed to extend the time that it remains in circulation in the blood, in order to reduce dosing frequency of what is expected to be life-long therapy.

The grant, which is part of the MRC's Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme award, will enable the lead product to be selected, material to be produced for preclinical studies, and the studies to support a clinical trial application to be completed ready for this potential new treatment to be taken into clinical development.

"This collaboration has been a team effort for the last decade," noted Prof Rahman. "Working with an industrial partner has been a key feature of the project as both the academic and industry partners provided complementary expertise and looked at the project from different viewpoints".