Pliant Partners with Cleveland Clinic to Find New Disease Targets for Gut Fibrosis

Pliant Partners with Cleveland Clinic to Find New Disease Targets for Gut Fibrosis

Pliant Therapeutics is starting a multi-year research collaboration with Cleveland Clinic to speed the discovery of new druggable targets for gastrointestinal fibrosis, a common gut complication in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Fibrotic strictures in the bowel, a narrowing in the intestine which can make it difficult for food material to pass through, are often a consequence of IBD. As much as 40% of patients with ileal Crohn’s disease (affecting the last part of the small intestine) will eventually have this condition.

No noninvasive strategies exist to efficiently prevent or manage fibrotic strictures in the gut, which are primarily treated through surgery. 

The goal of the new collaboration between Pliant and Cleveland Clinic is to find new and noninvasive therapeutic approaches that would prevent this scarring process from worsening, and improve patients’ quality of life.

Researchers from both institutions will collaborate to better understand the mechanisms underlying fibrosis of the gut and to look for potential druggable targets of the disease, which are largely lacking.

They will work with human cells, tissues, and organ culture systems in the lab, as well as novel animal models to identify and validate new targets.

The initiative will rely on Pliant’s drug discovery engine and Cleveland Clinic’s expertise as a world-renowned center of excellence for gut diseases.

“We are pleased to work alongside Cleveland Clinic and together contribute to its legacy of achieving meaningful research breakthroughs that ultimately benefit patients,” Scott Turner, PhD, vice president of translational sciences at Pliant, said in a press release.

“We continue to embrace innovation-minded collaborations that move forward the fibrotic disease space as whole,” he said.

Pliant Therapeutics, a San Francisco-based biotech launched in 2016 by Third Rock Ventures, is pursuing drug development programs for several fibrotic diseases, including a lead program for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), currently in preclinical stages.

The company’s investigative therapies target tissue-specific proteins called integrins and a cellular differentiation process called epithelial-to-mesenchymal-transition, both involved in the growth of fibrotic tissue.

“Understanding the underlying biology of gastrointestinal fibrosis [in the gut] is the key first step in pursuing a viable treatment option for patients,” said Florian Rieder, MD, associate staff in the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Cleveland Clinic.

“We are hopeful that our vast research expertise coupled with Pliant’s drug discovery capabilities will translate early stage science into novel medicines for patients.”