NEW YORK—Ichor Biologics has just received a $300,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to utilize its platform technology to develop broadly neutralizing antibodies against hantavirus infections.
Hantavirus infections cause a severe febrile disease called hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS), which leads to death in up to 40% of otherwise healthy individuals. Hantaviruses are typically transmitted from rodent to person. But evidence exists that at least one strain, Andes hantavirus, is able to spread from person to person.
While hantavirus infections are generally rare, factors such as climate change and urbanization are expected to increase the incidence of infections in the coming decades. Due to their high mortality rate, potential for intentional dissemination and lack of any effective treatment, the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Defense all consider hantavirus a potential bioterrorism threat.
New York City-based Ichor Biologics has developed a novel platform for the development of human monoclonal antibodies to treat infectious diseases. Ichor’s multifaceted platform identifies key immune responses that correlate with protection from infectious diseases, and engineers its antibody therapeutics to induce these protective immune responses in patients suffering from acute disease.
As Ichor Biologics’ website says, “Monoclonal antibody provides the greatest promise for treating multiple drug resistant bacterial pathogens, as well as emerging infectious diseases, such as … Hanta viruses. Monoclonal antibody therapies offer several advantages over conventional treatments/small molecule inhibitors: they are pathogen specific, which prevents microbial resistance in pathogens that are not targeted, unlike antibiotics.”
“Monoclonal Abs are very well tolerated in patients with little to no off target side effects, unlike some small molecules, and can even be safely used in immunosuppressed patients,” Ichor notes. “Advancements in our knowledge of how antibodies function allow for the engineering of antibodies with immune system enhancing functions that synergistically act to boost the body’s own defenses. A major difficulty in treating some pathogens is that they replicate in compartments deep within tissue, where conventional treatments don’t reach high enough concentrations to effectively neutralize infection. Antibodies posses the capacity to gain greater tissue penetration and hence more effectively neutralize infection.”
Ichor utilizes proprietary machine learning software to predict antibody-pathogen binding regions and make high affinity variants of its therapeutic antibody candidates. Ichor develops its own proprietary Ab therapeutics, and also offers Ab discovery and development services to biotechnology companies interested in developing antibody-based therapeutics.
“Our company is leveraging the evolution of natural resistance to infectious agents in a few unique individuals to develop therapeutics that will safely and effectively treat all patients suffering from particular infectious diseases,” said Dr. Raymond Alvarez, Ph.D., CEO of Ichor Biologics.
Previously Ichor Biologics developed two therapeutic antibodies against one of the most deadly strains of hantavirus, and demonstrated that they were both 100% protective in-vivo (Garrido et al.). With this most recent grant, Ichor aims to build on its success and develop broadly neutralizing Abs against all hantavirus infections.