An article from Biostock
In the northern of Sweden, Umeå, the privately owned company Lipum wants to draw the game plan for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases. The main assets are a new drug candidate and promising preclinical result for a unique target molecule. BioStock has met CEO Einar Pontén and discussed the past year and the company’s plans for 2019.
Lipum, which is part of the EU’s successful Umeå Biotech Incubator (UBI), focuses on developing an antibody for the treatment of the millions of patients suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases. The company’s biological drug candidate has so far shown effect in preclinical models for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 1 percent of the world’s population and is characterized by chronic inflammation of the joints, which often causes disability and has a serious impact on the quality of life.
Potential for the treatment of children
In the United States, Japan and Europe, about 300,000 children under the age of 16 suffer from JIA, a statistic that makes this the most common chronic rheumatic disease among children. In spite of this, JIA is considered a rare disease, and drug candidates who develop towards the disease thus qualify for Orphan Drug Designation.
JIA results in swelling, pain and stiffness in the joints and the patients get less growth than healthy children. It is not uncommon for the children to try to protect the joints by refusing to walk or limping. They also miss school work and parents often have to stay home from work, which results in a reduced life quality and high costs for society.
The founder of Lipum has a background in childcare and insights of the need for better medicine for the treatment of JIA. This is why the company has chosen JIA as the first focus indication for its drug candidate. However, studies are also conducted to evaluate the potential for treatment of other chronic inflammatory diseases. The results so far point to a completely new mechanism that can be widely applied.
BioStock met the CEO, Einar Pontén, to find out more about the company’s business and what will be focused on in 2019.
Can you initially tell us a little about the the foundation of the company?
– Lipum was founded in 2010 by Prof. Olle Hernell, Dr. Susanne Lindquist and Prof. Lennart Lundberg. For decades, the research was actually focused on infants and their nutritional uptake through breast milk. Prof. Hernell had discovered a new protein, BSSL (bile salt-stimulated lipase). Through this, they also discovered that BSSL is present in the blood and appeared to be associated with inflammation.
This was completely unknown before, so it fell natural to study it more carefully. Studies in a some different well-established animal models confirmed their observations. They then started Lipum and applied for a patent for treatment based on blocking of BSSL. These patents are currently approved for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases such as RA and JIA.
You have identified a previously completely unknown and unique target molecule for the treatment of inflammatory diseases. Does the mechanism of action differ from the immunosuppressive drugs currently used for advanced treatment?
– Yes, BSSL is a completely overlooked target molecule. Our approach to treat patients by blocking it is completely unique. It constitutes a new mechanism of action. For a some years, our researchers collaborate and receive support from SciLifeLab, and at this moment, we are studying this. It appears that blocking of BSSL does not affect the immune system, which would be a great advantage. For many years we have studied genetically modified mice that lack BSSL and they are just as healthy as common mice. Even in provocation they do not develop RA.