Apogenix GmbH, of Hamburg, Germany has won €900,000 from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the ministry’s programme of support for innovative molecular and cellular-based therapies.
The funds will be used to study Apogenix’s lead candidate APG101 in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. At the same time the company’s academic collaborator, Ana Martin-Villalba, of the Molecular Neurobiology group at the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) was awarded a further €600,000 by the ministry.
Apogenix, which is a spin-out from the DKFZ, has exclusive commercial rights to the outcome of the research collaboration. The company specialises in modulating apoptosis, or programmed cell death.
APG101 is already in development for the prevention of acute graft-versus-host disease, an indication in which it has orphan drug status. Clinical trials are due to start in early 2008.
“The excessive cell death observed in both spinal cord injuries and graft-versus-host disease is mediated by CD95, a receptor located on the surface of many human cells,” said Martin-Villalba. “It has been shown by us and other research groups that inhibition of CD95-mediated apoptosis prevents the death of healthy cells in a variety of animal disease models. This therapeutic mechanism of action possesses a huge potential to address also cerebro- and cardiovascular diseases, such as myocardial infarction or stroke.”
APG101 is a recombinant fusion protein consisting of the extracellular part of the CD95-receptor (CD95) and an IgG molecule. The molecule inhibits apoptosis by blocking the interaction between the CD95-ligand and the CD95-receptor on human cells. The compound is currently in advanced preclinical development and has shown a dose-dependent efficacy in a variety of animal models for acute graft-versus-host disease and other indications, such as myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke.