Senisca wins grant to advance development of IPF treatments

UK company is using oligonucleotides to reverse senescence in tissues

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by Mary Chapman |

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Innovate UK has awarded biotechnology company Senisca £571,350 (about $712,000) to develop oligonucleotide treatments for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

The UK-based company is working on innovative biologic treatments that use oligonucleotides — short strands of RNA or DNA — to reverse senescence in IPF-specific tissues. Senescence, which is known to play a role in the progression of IPF, is when cell division ceases. It occurs increasingly with age.

Senisca’s proprietary technology harnesses RNA technology to reinvigorate senescent cells, which promote inflammation and generally behave differently than young, healthy cells. The company is developing several oligonucleotide candidates and has completed evaluations in several cell models across nine different cell types. Early preclinical data indicate the potential therapies positively impact IPF biomarkers.

“Our technology has real disruptive potential for the treatment of the diseases of aging,” Lorna Harries, Senisca’s chief scientific officer, said in a company press release. “This is an exciting research project that will build on the previous work carried out by Senisca that led to the identification of a new and druggable set of target genes which enable significant senescence reversal effect in primary human cell models.”

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IPF is the most common form of pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive disease of the respiratory system marked by lung scarring. The underlying cause of IPF, which is thought to affect 1 in 5,000 people globally, is unclear. Advanced age is among the well-established risk factors for it.

IPF’s symptoms are generally similar to those of other PF forms — shortness of breath and a dry, hacking cough. About half of IPF patients have swelling on the tips of their fingers and toes, called digital clubbing.

Two approved antifibrotic treatments are available to hamper the lung function decline that characterizes IPF — Esbriet (pirfenidone), marketed by Genentech, and Ofev (nintedanib) by Boehringer Ingelheim.

The grant will enable the company to speedily advance preclinical studies toward filing an investigational new drug application, a formal request for authorization to test a treatment candidate in humans.

“Our ambition is to be the world-leader in the development and use of senotherapeutic oligonucleotides to treat complex disease,” said Kirsty Semple, Senisca’s CEO. “This project has the potential to lead to an innovative avenue of investigation for novel IPF therapeutics, capable, for the first time, to attenuate the IPF disease mechanism and potentially to reverse the condition rather than mitigating symptoms only. We are grateful to Innovate UK for their support and look forward to reporting our progress to address this unmet medical need.”

Senisca’s initial target indications also include osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, and age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease associated with aging that can cause blurred vision.