A new type of drug to treat inflammatory bowel disease

Josep M. Aran


    Josep M. Aran


    Institut d'Investigació Biomèdica de Bellvitge (IDIBELL), Spain


    Around 3 million people in Europe suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), of autoimmune origin, with an economic impact on public health systems of between 4,600 and 5,600 million euros per year. In Spain, the incidence of this group of diseases, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, is 14.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The conditions have a significant negative impact on the quality of life of patients, 10-15 % of whom will eventually need to undergo surgery to remove part of the colon. These diseases also carry an associated risk of developing colorectal cancer.

    Some treatments are available, but patients often have low adherence to them due to the side effects. These treatments can also cause immunosuppression, which can lead to major health problems. Accordingly, safer drugs with fewer side effects and higher efficacy are needed.

    In response to this challenge, the researchers in this project have discovered a blood protein with high anti-inflammatory activity: it is able to "reprogramme" immune system cells from a pro-inflammatory to an anti-inflammatory state, which could slow down the progression of these diseases. From this innate immune regulatory protein, which is the body's first line of defence, they have developed a recombinant protein, PRP-HO7, which, when administered in the correct doses and at the right time, is able to stop inflammation, restore immune tolerance and achieve long-term remission of the IBD without causing immunosuppression.

    In this project, the researchers aim to develop this biological drug for a Phase I clinical trial in IBD.