Neoleukin hopes to take its IL-2 candidate Neo-2/15 to the clinic.
Computational scientists at the University of Washington have taken on the task of designing a drug that specifically targets the IL-2 pathway without the high toxicity that has plagued candidates of this type to date. They believe in their new candidate strongly enough to form a new biotech company to take it to the clinic.
The company –– Neoleukin –– will continue to use computer-aided design to improve the properties of Neo-2/15. The drug is a protein designed to bind specifically to IL-2 beta and gamma receptors but not CD25, which leads to toxic reactions. Binding to IL-2 beta and gamma receptors leads to a more potent T cell response to cancer cells. The researchers also added a component to the protein that enables it to bind to IL-15 as a way to boost the drug’s efficacy.
The small and stable candidate has therapeutic properties that are at least as good as or better than naturally occurring IL-2, according to Umut Ulge, one of the lead authors of a paper on the research published in Nature. The difference is the use of computational design to significantly reduce the toxicity. A lab model was developed that could be administered to mice in high doses without any lethal reaction.
Neoluekin has competitors, including collaborators Nektar Therapeutics and Bristol-Myers Squibb (Opdivo/NKTR-214 combination drugs) and Synthorx (Synthorin IL-2).