Sorrento, Scripps partner in new collaboration

The organizations will seek to develop antibodies, vaccines to prevent and treat obesity

Kelsey Kaustinen
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SAN DIEGO—Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on oncology therapies, and The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have announced an antibody and vaccine development collaboration under which Sorrento will gain an exclusive worldwide license to TSRI’s novel technologies based on ghrelin signaling inhibition to prevent and treat obesity and other metabolic disorders.
 
Dr. Kim Janda, the Ely R. Callaway Professor in Chemistry at TSRI and a member of the board of directors at Sorrento, led a group at TSRI that has developed novel technology that seeks to counter obesity via antibody-mediated neutralization of ghrelin. Their work has shown statistically significant effects in rodents, such as reduced food intake and body weight loss, and has been detailed in both the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Molecular Pharmaceutics. Sorrento will seek to use its proprietary G-MAB antibody library technology for the identification of fully human antibodies that can sequester the ghrelin-mediated appetite process, and aims to develop vaccines and antibody-based therapeutics that can fight obesity.
 
“Our colleagues at TSRI have presented promising animal data and we are pleased to collaborate on the development of human vaccines and fully human antibody therapeutics to help address this important public health issue. This discovery program represents a novel approach to combating obesity,” Dr. Henry Ji, president and CEO of Sorrento, said in a press release.
 
Ghrelin, as TSRI notes in a 2012 press release, is “a small peptide hormone that is produced mainly in the stomach. As an evolutionary warning signal that promotes weight gain and fat during periods of weight loss, ghrelin can be blamed for the failure of most modern diets.” This peptide encourages eating “through its action on a receptor known as GHSR1A in the hypothalamus region of the brain.”
 
“We have published that antibodies targeting the ghrelin-mediated appetite process are effective in reducing body weight in established animal models,” Janda commented in a statement. “Sorrento’s antibody library will be a critical resource in identifying fully human antibodies that could be developed into clinical therapeutics to tackle the obesity problem worldwide.”
 
Sorrento notes on its website that its antibody collection represents “one of the largest fully human antibody libraries available to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies for drug discovery and development partnerships.”
 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that obesity has increased significantly over the past 20 years, with 35.7 percent of adults and roughly 17 percent of children and adolescents qualifying as obese. That adds up to some 87 million people over the age of 20—a number that is expected to jump to more than 110 million in the next 10 years—and close to 12.5 million people ages 2 to 19. And those are only the numbers in the United States; according to the World Health Organization, global obesity has almost doubled since 1980. In 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults were overweight, 500 million of whom were obese, and in 2011, more than 40 million children under the age of 5 were overweight. Obesity is linked to a multitude of co-morbidities, with diabetes and heart disease chief among them.

Kelsey Kaustinen

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