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Development of a Novel, Targeted Small Molecule Inhibitor of the Nucleoside Salvage Pathway to Treat Optic Neuritis

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R42EY034397-01
Agency Tracking Number: R42EY034397
Amount: $368,195.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: 100
Solicitation Number: PA21-262
Solicitation Year: 2021
Award Year: 2022
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2022-09-30
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2023-09-29
Small Business Information
13451 RAND DR
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423-4807
United States
DUNS: 059992210
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (323) 518-6901
Business Contact
Phone: (323) 518-6901
Research Institution
LOS ANGELES, CA 90095-9000
United States

 Nonprofit College or University

Optic neuritis (ON) is an acute autoimmune disease caused by immune attack on the myelin that protects the
optic nerve leading to vision loss. Steroid treatments accelerate recovery of visual acuity in some patients but
have no effect on other visual functions such as contrast sensitivity that are important for activities of daily life.
Even with steroid treatments, 13,000 ON patients per year fail to fully recover visual acuity and 50% of ON
patients eventually convert to multiple sclerosis. New therapies are needed to improve ON patient outcomes and
quality-of-life. Aberrant activation of T and B lymphocytes drives ON pathologies. Targeting these pathogenic
cells is a potential therapeutic strategy. Our company, Trethera, has conducted extensive preclinical studies to
develop a small molecule drug, TRE-515, that has the potential to selectively block lymphocyte activation in ON
by inhibiting deoxycytidine kinase (dCK), a key rate-limiting enzyme in the deoxyribonucleoside salvage pathway.
Our preliminary studies show (i) that cells of the immune system activate dCK during all phases of disease in
the C57Bl/6 MOG35-55 experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) mouse model of ON, (ii) that TRE-515
blocks dCK activity in immune cells in this model, (iii) that TRE-515 blocks phenotypes of CNS demyelination in
this model, (iv) that TRE-515 blocks inflammation of the optic nerve in this model, (v) that TRE-515 blocks T cell
activation in culture, (vi) that TRE-515 blocks B and T cell activation in this model, and (vii) that TRE-515
treatments and dCK knockout are not associated with significant toxicities. Collectively, these data strongly
suggest that TRE-515 could be an important new therapy for ON. In support of this, the FDA recently awarded
TRE-515 Orphan Drug Status for ON. In the proposed Fast-Track project, we will conduct critical preclinical
studies to confirm the safety properties of TRE-515 as a therapy for ON, to study the ON disease stage that
TRE-515 affects, to identify the appropriate dosage regimen, and to identify potential biomarkers of target
engagement. In Phase I, we will study whether TRE-515 administered therapeutically can block ON symptoms
(Aim 1) and evaluate the genotoxicity of TRE-515 (Aim 2). In Phase II, we will examine the dose-response
relationship between TRE-515 and ON symptoms in the MOG35-55 EAE mouse model of ON (Aim 3), evaluate
the effect of TRE-515 in an additional ON model (Aim 4), study the mechanisms through which TRE-515 blocks
lymphocyte proliferation (Aim 5), and evaluate whether plasma deoxycytidine and deoxyuridine levels could
serve as biomarkers of TRE-515 target engagement (Aim 6). This IND-enabling work will be critical for moving
TRE-515 into the clinical for ON patients and for designing clinical trials with the highest chance of success.PROJECT NARRATIVE
Optic Neuritis (ON) patients need new, effective, and well-tolerated therapies to improve treatment outcomes
and reduce side effects, and for these patients, reducing aberrant lymphocyte activation with targeted drugs is a
promising therapeutic strategy. Our company, Trethera, is developing a novel small-molecule drug, TRE-515, to
treat ON by targeting a pathway required for lymphocyte activation. In the proposed project, we will conduct
critical preclinical work to further evaluate the safety of TRE-515 as a drug for ON and to further study how TRE-
515 affects ON relevant cells and disease stages.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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