SomaLogic and Otsuka scientists publish paper describing therapeutic potential of novel SOMAmer reagent for rheumatoid arthritis


In a “Fast Track” article published in the journal Nucleic Acid Therapeutics*, researchers from SomaLogic and Otsuka Pharmaceutical describe a series of studies that demonstrate that treatment with a novel Slow Off-rate Modified Aptamer (SOMAmer) molecule can significantly delay the onset and reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in a cynomolgus monkey model of the disease. The SOMAmer molecule used in these studies, named SL1026, was initially selected for its ability to directly bind and block the signaling of the critical inflammatory protein interleukin-6 (IL-6), which is known to be involved in RA onset and progression.

“SL1026 represents a new class of drug candidates for the treatment of diseases where interleukin-6 plays a central role, including cancer and other inflammatory diseases in addition to RA,” said Nebojsa Janjic, Chief Science Officer at SomaLogic. “These initial studies reinforce and extend the large potential of SOMAmer molecules as therapeutic agents.”

The researchers tested SL1026 in a total of 24 cynomolgus monkeys. Pharmacokinetic studies of the molecule in 12 monkeys across a range of doses established the dosing regimen for determining its effects on rheumatoid arthritis onset and progression in the other 12 animals. The complete results are available in the Nucleic Acid Therapeutics manuscript, which is available to all readers under an “open access” license.

“Our collaboration with Otsuka researchers over the past several years has been incredibly productive and gratifying,” said Byron Hewett, Chief Executive Officer at SomaLogic. “Its world-class expertise in drug development has made it a terrific partner for exploring the promise of our rapidly growing SOMAmer reagent library for addressing critical unmet need for novel therapeutics. We believe that the RA work is just the first of what will be many successful studies.”

Although there is no cure for RA, there are several treatment options for trying to manage the disease. Notable among these is the biological agent Actemra® (tocilizumab, Genentech), an antibody based drug that binds the IL-6 receptor protein, thus preventing IL-6 signaling through its receptor. Because it is based on nucleic acids rather than amino acids, SL1026 offers certain advantages over antibody-based drugs such as tocilizumab, including the lack of an immune response to the drug itself (as demonstrated in the published manuscript), and a more consistent chemical rather than biological synthesis method.

SomaLogic scientists can select SOMAmer reagents that specifically bind virtually any protein of interest, including those that are known to be important drug targets across a wide range of diseases and conditions.

*Hirota M. et al. (2015). Chemically Modified Interleukin-6 Aptamer Inhibits Development of Collagen-Induced Arthritis in Cynomolgus Monkeys. Nucleic Acid Therapeutics DOI: 10.1089/nat.2015.0567.