Researchers Near Human Trials of Multiple Sclerosis Drug

SYDNEY (Reuters) Mar 12 – A hormone that prevents a pregnant woman’s immune system from attacking the foetus may hold the key to halting autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Australian researchers said on Tuesday.

The researchers said they hoped to begin phase I clinical trials of a drug based on the hormone in about a year.

An offshoot of Sydney’s University of New South Wales and biotech firm CBio Ltd on Tuesday signed a deal to produce enough Early Pregnancy Factor (EPF)–a modified version of the naturally occuring protein–to begin the toxicity tests.

CBio managing director Wolf Hanisch told Reuters commercial production of EPF, if the trials are satisfactory, would be 5 to 7 years down the road.

“This agreement brings CBio Ltd a step closer to commercialising a drug that can solve one of the biggest challenges in medical research–finding a successful treatment for the autoimmune diseases which afflict millions of sufferers around the world,” he said.

Hanisch stressed that EPF was not a cure. It halts the effects of autoimmunity rather than by identifying and countering its source.

So far, it has shown good results in animal models of multiple sclerosis, but the researchers have not investigated it as a therapy for other diseases.

The university’s commercial offshoot, ACYTE Biotech Pty Ltd, will now develop a production line to manufacture large quantities of EPF, said ACYTE executive director Peter Gray.

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