Engitix and Morphic Therapeutic announced the start of a research partnership into extracellular matrix targets for treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with intestinal fibrosis, known as fibrostenotic IBD.
The extracellular matrix (ECM) is present in all tissues and organs. It is a network of proteins and carbohydrates that exists outside cells, and is essential to cellular function and growth, as well as tissue structure and biochemical equilibrium, among other functions.
Importantly, ECM has become a major therapeutic target for diseases marked by injured or damaged tissue.
Due to the chronic inflammatory nature of IBD, almost one-third of people with Crohn’s — one the this disease’s two major types — develop fibrostenotic lesions.
These lesions are a “thickening” of the intestinal wall accompanied by a narrowing of the intestinal tract, which can lead to bowel obstructions that require surgery. This thickening, called fibrosis, is caused by the accumulation of extracellular matrix components, including collagen and other proteins.
Engitix, a tissue engineering company, has a human ECM-based discovery platform that researchers can use to recreate the natural cell microenvironment, and study new treatment targets for any disease. The biotech company is currently focused on developing ECM-based treatments for fibrosis and solid tumors.
A biopharmaceutical company, Morphic’s expertise is in oral integrin-targeted therapies. The therapeutic potential of integrins, adhesion proteins that attach a cell to its extracellular matrix, is widely recognized because of integrins’ central roles in almost all phases of human biology as well as many diseases.
According to a press release, Engitix and Morphic are working together to develop new treatments for fibrostenotic diseases. To do so, researchers will make use of Engitix’s ECM platform to identify pharmacological targets for possible future oral integrin drug candidates.
“We are delighted to work closely with Morphic Therapeutic, who recognise the potential for Engitix’s ECM-based platform to identify therapeutic targets and profile drug candidates with greater success,” said Giuseppe Mazza, PhD, co-founder and chief executive officer of Engitix.
The company’s platform, he added, offers scientists a “unique opportunity to understand better the expression pattern of integrins as well as other relevant disease pathways” in an effective model of intestinal fibrostenosis.