Grant Supports Miniprotein Binder as Potential IPF Therapy

Marisa Wexler MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler MS |

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The Washington Research Foundation (WRF) has awarded a $250,000 grant to support the development of a novel miniprotein binder to help treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

The grant was awarded to Anindya Roy, PhD, an acting instructor and senior fellow at the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design (IPD).

“The latest funding from WRF will enable us to reach several major milestones,” Roy said in a press release.

The new grant will support research building on prior work done by Roy and colleagues, who developed a miniprotein that binds to a protein called integrin alpha-V/beta-6 (αvβ6). This protein is present on the surface of cells, and is known to promote fibrosis, or tissue scarring, a key feature of pulmonary fibrosis.

Prior research has suggested that blocking the activity of αvβ6 might lessen this scarring in people with IPF. The activity of this protein also has been implicated in the development of lung cancers, and in lung damage caused by certain viral infections, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and COVID-19.

Other therapies that target this protein also are being developed as potential treatments for IPF, but Roy’s has several unique potential advantages. These include being extremely stable and able to bind to the αvβ6 protein with very

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high specificity, making it well-suited for therapeutic delivery directly into the lungs.

“Our unique capabilities to design hyperstable miniproteins give us a competitive advantage over other biologics for a wide variety of pulmonary diseases,” Roy said.

In prior research, which also was supported by WRF, Roy and colleagues showed that injecting their miniprotein into the lungs reduced lung fibrosis and improved lung function in a mouse model. Now, the team will be conducting further experiments to examine the investigational therapy’s safety and effectiveness, as well as testing whether it can be administered via inhalation.

“We’ll be conducting mouse-model studies to determine the ideal delivery method — which we expect will be through a nebulizer — and measure toxicity to establish optimal dosing,” Roy said.

“Advancing this miniprotein as a potential therapeutic is exactly the type of work that WRF believes will have a genuine impact on human health,” said Meher Antia, PhD, director of grant programs at WRF. “The work that Anindya and the IPD team is doing is extremely important and we are delighted to continue to support it.”