Asthma, a chronic inflammatory condition in which the airways develop increased responsiveness to stimuli, is characterized by bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR), inflammation, increased mucus production, and intermittent airway obstruction. The symptoms of asthma, which can range from mild to life threatening, can usually be controlled to varying degrees, but not cured, with a combination of drugs and lifestyle changes.
Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases affecting some 150 million people worldwide and an estimated 20.3 million American sufferers, of which 6.3 million are children. Asthma deaths continue to increase and it is estimated that 5,000 people now die from asthma annually. Asthma costs the US an estimated $27.6 billion annually, including $11.5 billion in direct medical costs such as hospitalization.
Mercia’s strategy towards chronic inflammation associated with asthma is to simultaneously target multiple cytokines, including IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13, and chemokines, including the family of eotaxins, implicated in the underlying chronic inflammation associated with asthma and allergy. Selected epitopes from each of these target antigens are conjugated to an immunogenic carrier protein and then formulated in MAS-1 adjuvant to simultaneously induce antibodies to selected multiple targets upon immunization. This combinatorial approach induces antigen-specific antibodies that simultaneously inhibit the biological activity of the targeted cytokines. Our MERIT based approach, based on our clinically proven core technology, preserves self tolerance to the patient’s own target molecules providing a safe long acting immunotherapy for asthma.
Lead candidate and optimization studies sponsored by support from the NIH (1 R41 A1074114) are underway with Dr. Gabriele Grunig in naïve and asthma models. Dr Grunig has presented preliminary results of this work at scientific meetings (Keystone Asthma Symposium 2009, Aspen Lung conference 2010).