A cell-penetrating, anti-inflammatory peptide developed by Jacek Hawiger, Louise B. McGavock Chair and Distinguished Professor of Medicine, and licensed to biopharmaceutical company Amytrx, has been approved by the FDA for testing as a potential therapeutic for mild to moderate eczema. The peptide, known as AMTX-100, has been in clinical trials since March.
The licensing agreement, facilitated by the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, enables translation of the product of the Hawiger team’s decades-long academic research from the lab to a clinical setting. The result is the near-term opportunity to improve the health and well-being of people with a wide range of inflammatory and metabolic diseases, including psoriasis, rosacea, acne, herpes type 1 and 2, and shingles.
“The research led by Dr. Hawiger has immense opportunity to address a variety of conditions connected to inflammation,” said Vice Provost for Research Padma Raghavan.
AMTX-100 is a peptide, or chain of amino acids, designed to swiftly penetrate the membrane of inflamed cells that were injured by microbial, autoimmune, allergic, metabolic or physical insults. Once inside of cells, AMTX-100 prevents the cell’s nucleus—a command center of inflammation—from triggering an otherwise unfavorable inflammatory response. Without such intervention that targets nuclear transport checkpoint, cells produce a myriad of chemicals that mediate inflammation and keep affected organs on fire. This peptide has been developed by Hawiger’s team to naturally alter the route through which our own proinflammatory proteins cause swelling, redness, fever, pain, and impaired function, without sacrificing the cell’s ability to grow and carry out its functions. Research has shown that this approach has significantly fewer side effects and safety concerns than many anti-inflammatory drugs addressing the same issue, creating a potentially significant market opportunity.
“We are working to safely address a key mechanism of so many diseases and health conditions that make life more difficult than it should be,” said Hawiger, also professor of molecular physiology and biophysics. “I am very pleased to be at this phase of translational research that reaffirms our vision, shared by Amytrx co-founder and Director Thomas Andrews, to develop this groundbreaking therapeutic approach with Amytrx.”
As a co-founder of Amytrx, Hawiger will be involved in further study and research on this transformative anti-inflammatory therapy by conducting preclinical studies in experimental models of human disease with high unmet need.
“The progression of this work to Amytrx is in no small part thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization team,” Raghavan said. “They have been incredibly engaged in bringing game-changing innovation from Vanderbilt research labs to the real world.”
“Dr. Hawiger’s anti-inflammatory peptide platform is exceptionally promising,” said Dr. Matt Gonda, Amytrx’s CEO, president and co-founder. “Meaningful research with human applications like this cannot be kept to academia. There is a need for a commercialization partner to bring it to fruition in order to reach the public. Amytrx is thrilled to be working together to bring science with such broad implications for unmet medical needs to the bedside, and our therapeutics a step closer to patient use.”