Lycera Plows Ahead With Drugs To Treat Autoimmune Disorders

2/24/11Follow @xconomy

Lycera has taken a significant step forward in commercializing an oral drug to treat autoimmune disorders.

The Plymouth, MI-based pharmaceutical startup, a spinoff from the University of Michigan, recently released results from a study that suggested its compound can selectively silence diseased white blood cells while leaving healthy ones intact. The results were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The findings could signify an important step ahead for Lycera, as it seeks to develop a new class of orally-administered drugs to treat immune system diseases ranging from lupus and rheumatoid arthritis to psoriasis and graft-versus-host disease, says Lycera founder and chief scientific officer Gary Glick.

“We may not be able to prevent the body from making the (infected) cells but we could turn them off as soon as they appear,” he says.

The company hopes to begin Phase I clinical trials, the first of three stages normally required for FDA approval of new drugs, later this year. Founded in 2006, Lycera has raised about $36 million from EDF Ventures in Ann Arbor, Arch Venture Partners in Chicago, IL., Clarus Ventures in Cambridge, MA and InterWest Partners in Menlo Park, CA.

About 50 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disorder, in which immune system cells that normally help us ward off bacterial and viral infections direct their assault against healthy tissues, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.

Type 1 diabetes is perhaps the most prominent example of an autoimmune disorder: the immune system kills cells in the pancreas that make insulin the body needs to regulate blood sugar.

An estimated 1.3 million American adults also suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, which causes … Next Page »

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