InflammatoryBowel Disease (IBD) is characterized by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract (either in its entirety or focused on particular areas of the GI) and includes two major designated conditions, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The symptoms include severe diarrhea, pain, fatigue and weight loss, and it is estimated to affect 1 to 1.3 million people in the United States alone, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP).
The novel therapy being developed is based on bacteriophages, i.e., viruses that infect and replicate inside bacteria, leading to bacteria-death during the replication process. Recently, a specific strain of the bacteria Escherichia coli (AIEC) was linked to Crohn’s disease, one of the phenotypic forms of IBD. As a result of this discovery, the team of researchers at Ferring Pharmaceuticals developed a project to understand the role of the AIEC strain in IBD (in a partnership with the University of Lille, University of Auvergne and DigestScience, which investigates digestive diseases). In a second phase of the study, the researchers worked together with Ferring at the Institute Pasteur, and Intralytix and developed different bacteriophages that specifically target the various AIEC bacteria strains that have been collected in patients with Crohn’s disease.
Intralytix, a biotechnology company producing and marketing bacteriophage-based targeting bacteria in different settings (including environmental settings, the food processing industry and in hospitals and clinics), will assist Ferring Pharmaceuticals in producing bacteriophages that will later be used in clinical trials (starting in 2016).
Commenting on the importance of the new collaboration, Per Falk, Executive VP and Chief Scientific Officer at Ferring, noted, “Crohn’s disease is a painful and debilitating condition with limited treatment options. Our development program to bring relief to CD patients with our bacteriophage treatment directed against AIEC bacteria is ongoing.”
Alexander Sulakvelidze, VP of R&D and CSO of Intralytix added, “Bacteriophages offer a unique tool to gently fine-tune the gut microbiota by specifically targeting problem-causing bacteria without disturbing the normal, and often beneficial, gut microflora.”