Maxion Therapeutics awarded £2 million Innovate UK funding to develop ion channel antibodies for “hard-to-treat" autoimmune diseases

Dr John McCafferty and Dr Aneesh Karatt Vellatt

Biotechnology company Maxion Therapeutics announces it has been awarded a prestigious GBP £2 million grant from Innovate UK, as part of its Biomedical Catalyst 2022 Round 2: Industry-led R&D funding competition. The funds will support the use of Maxion’s proprietary KnotBody® platform to develop antibodies to treat autoimmune diseases (AID) with high unmet clinical need. The funding, which originates from UK Research and Innovation, is part of a GBP £25 million investment in projects to support UK-registered businesses to develop innovative solutions to address significant health or healthcare challenges.

The funding follows Maxion’s announcement in February 2023 that it had completed a £13 million Series A financing, led by LifeArc Ventures, including Monograph Capital and BGF as equal participants.

The effective treatment of AID remains an important medical challenge and a significant area of unmet medical need. Currently, 4% of the world’s population, or around 300 million people, are thought to be suffering from over 80 different autoimmune conditions. In the UK alone, 4 million people live with an autoimmune condition, with the incidence increasing by 3-9% annually.

Antibody-based therapies have transformed the way chronic conditions like autoimmune disorders (AID) are treated, providing enhanced efficacy and safety while reducing the need for frequent administration. However, despite the success of current antibody therapies such as Humira, (the world's best-selling drug), a significant proportion of patients do not respond well to treatment. Moreover, these therapies can lead to broad immunosuppression, increasing the risk of infections. As such, novel treatments are required that can offer broader patient coverage while minimising adverse effects.

Several ion channels are implicated in the pathogenesis of AID, but these critical cell surface proteins are seen as a complex target class for antibodies, with no antibody-based drugs targeting ion channels currently approved or in clinical development. At Maxion, nature has provided the answer in the form of “miniproteins” (knottins) that block ion channels. When knottins are fused onto the surface of antibodies, the resulting “KnotBodies” combine the ion channel-blocking activity of knottins with the excellent drug properties of antibodies, including long half-life in the body and the ability to further engineer their properties. This innovative molecular fusion approach serves as the foundation for Maxion's patented KnotBody platform technology.

The company’s early R&D efforts have yielded KnotBodies to ion channel targets involved in AID, which will be further developed as selective and long-acting first-in-class and best-in-class therapeutics using Innovate UK funding.

Dr John McCafferty, CEO and co-founder, Maxion Therapeutics, said: “We are delighted to receive this substantial award from Innovate UK, to support the use of our KnotBody technology to develop therapeutics against this important but challenging class of targets. Our ultimate goal is to significantly improve the quality of life of patients by preventing and treating devastating autoimmune conditions, through the expansion and optimisation of our innovative pipeline of candidate therapeutics.”

Dr Aneesh Karatt Vellatt, CSO and co-founder, Maxion Therapeutics, said: KnotBody technology overcomes many of the challenges presented by conventional antibody development techniques, with an ability to specifically target ion channels linked to chronic autoimmune diseases. We are excited by the potential therapeutic candidates in our pipeline, and this new funding from Innovate UK will allow us to expedite their development and progress the most promising drug candidate towards clinical trials.”

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