Most of you reading CVI’s SightSeeing blog have probably heard of eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and maybe even retinitis pigmentosa. But how many of you have heard of uveitis? Well, don’t be surprise if you have not heard of it because it is not a well-known eye condition. According to the American Uveitis Society, each year in the United States, approximately 15 new cases of uveitis will develop out of every 100,000 people, for a total of 38,000 people per year. It is further estimated that 10% to 15% of the blindness in the United States is due to uveitis. So as you can see these numbers are pretty small. But uveitis can be an underlining condition that impacts the auto immune system and can be connected to lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. It causes inflammation in the eye and must be treated by an eye doctor. Current treatment for uveitis can be some pretty toxic medications, like steroids, that can further hamper the auto immune system. As a result researchers are developing a potential alternative treatment that was originally derived from a Caribbean Sea anemone.
I know about uveitis first hand because this is how I lost my vision some 20 years ago. I was one of those 15 people out of 100,000 in the United States that was diagnosed and later became totally blind as a result. It came very rapidly and very painfully. I did not have a history of vision impairment and no one in my family had vision loss either. I was treated with steroids which had some very nasty side effects and compromised my immune system. So when I read about the research being done by Kineta, Inc., a biotechnology company focused on the development of new, targeted immune modulating drugs, on this treatment option for uveitis I became very interested.
Kineta, Inc. is working on a drug candidate that may be applicable to a vast array of autoimmune associated diseases including uveitis. Right now human testing is focused on psoriasis. The experimental drug, called dalazatide (formerly known as ShK-186), has concluded phase one human studies. Dalazatide was originally derived from a Caribbean Sea anemone but is used in a synthetic form now. Dr. Ernesto J. Muñoz, Associate Director for Translational Immunology at Kineta, led the company’s latest research study focused on uveitis. “Our work using a model of anterior uveitis shows that dalazatide is able to prevent disease and the inflammation that comes with it,” Dr. Muñoz said. The study was conducted in rats utilizing a well-accepted model of uveitis. Kineta tested a new formulation of dalazatide specifically designed for ocular use. The Seattle company sees potential for this application to address several autoimmune eye diseases including chronic anterior uveitis, Birdshot uveitis, Sjögren’s syndrome and dry-eye disease.
Dalazatide is significantly different from other drugs currently available for autoimmune diseases and autoimmune eye diseases. It is designed to target a subset of immune cells that cause autoimmune inflammation, without shutting down the greater immune system. The hope is that dalazatide will not only be more effective, but safer too. Kineta intends to form a partnership with a larger pharmaceutical company to bring dalazatide into later-stage clinical trials and eventually to the market.
Because it targets pathogenic T cells that bring about inflammation, the experimental drug may eventually reach beyond psoriasis and address many more autoimmune diseases. In addition to psoriasis, researchers say the drug candidate also has excellent potential for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma and uveitis. These diseases all share the common central issue of autoimmune inflammation and that is what dalazatide is designed to target.
For more information on Kineta’s autoimmune drug in development and other potential medicines derived from the natural world read in depth coverage in National Geographic Magazine: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/02/125-venom/holland-text
To learn more about these new developments, register for a webinar on Thursday, April 2, at 1 p.m. by going to https://engage.vevent.com/rt/kinetainc~040215