Progentec Diagnostics, Inc. and OMRF have entered into a new collaboration to create tools designed to improve the treatment of autoimmune diseases. The initial project will focus on developing a diagnostic test to identify patients at increased risk of disease flares in lupus.
Lupus is a multifaceted disease in which the immune system is unbalanced and mistakenly turns its weapons against a person’s own cells. This can cause periods of unchecked inflammation and disease flares, damaging tissue and organs. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates 1.5 million Americans have the disease, which predominantly strikes women and can lead to increased morbidity and early mortality.
The platform technology for the new collaboration is based on the work of OMRF scientists Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., and Melissa Munroe, M.D., Ph.D. The pair identified 52 disease mediators, which are molecules that regulate inflammation and increase or decrease the chance that a lupus patient will experience a disease flare.
“The technology developed at OMRF is far ahead of any previous ones,” said Sanjiv Sharma, CEO of Progentec Diagnostics. “We believe it will fundamentally change the current treatment paradigm and enhance the quality of life for scores of lupus patients.”
The mediators can be used to calculate a disease score, which serves as a method of identifying patients who are likely to experience heightened disease activity. With such information, doctors could intervene as much as three months in advance to blunt or even prevent spikes in disease activity.
“With a tool to effectively predict flares, it could help show what a person’s lupus is actually going to look like tomorrow,” said James, who holds the Lou C. Kerr Endowed Chair in Biomedical Research at OMRF.
“This would allow physicians to identify those at the highest risk of flare, intervene earlier and tailor treatments based on each patient’s individual needs,” Munroe said.
Progentec Diagnostics will be based in Oklahoma City, and its researchers will continue to collaborate with scientists at OMRF. OMRF has been designated as an Autoimmunity Center of Excellence by the National Institutes of Health.
“This is a perfect marriage in our eyes,” said Mohan Purushothaman, Ph.D., president of Progentec Diagnostics. “OMRF has consistently demonstrated a track record of commendable scientific accomplishments, and we bring our commercialization capabilities.”
“This project has the potential to push lupus treatment to the next frontier,” said OMRF Vice President of Technology Ventures Manu Nair. “Patients and providers will have better information at their disposal, so medications can be administered according to patients’ unique, individualized needs—and even to counter disease flares that have yet to occur. That’s a huge step forward for precision medicine.”