Source: Democrat and Chronicle.com
Henrietta firm has laser focus on arthritis
Bennett J. Loudon, Staff writer5:03 a.m. EST November 28, 2013
(Photo: Staff photographer)
A local biotech startup is developing a new way to deliver gene therapy that will hopefully overcome some of the problems that have plagued the treatment approach.
Until now, it has been difficult to control where, when, and to what extent therapeutic genes could work in the body, making the treatment inefficient and, in some cases, unsafe because once a gene drug is injected, it’s constantly "on."
"The problem with gene therapy is the drug stays there for months and years, so if you want to turn it off, there is no way currently to do that," said Max Rempel, founder and president of Localized Therapeutics.
His company, which recently moved in at the High Tech Rochester business incubator in Henrietta, is developing "laser switch" technology to address those issues.
By plugging a special DNA sequence into a gene drug it can become light inducible. With the new technology, a patient with knee pain, for example, would get a shot into a joint about once a year from a doctor or nurse of the light-inducible drug. The drug would be inactive without light. The patient will get a laser wrap to place on their knee about twice a day for 10 minutes each, as needed.
The light wrap is an existing product already approved by the FDA for arthritis therapy. It’s now designed to be used alone, without drugs. The combination will stop pain and inflammation, improve lubrication and restore cartilage, said Dave Braverman, vice president of sales and marketing.
"Even if it goes somewhere else, the only place it’s going to be activated is where you shine the light," said Robin Hodownes, vice president of business development.
About 12 hours after the patient stops using the light, the drug will stop working.
Getting FDA approval, and getting a product on the market, can require 10 years and billions of dollars. But Localized Therapeutics is not planning to pursue that route. The company will license their technology to large pharmaceutical companies making the gene drugs which have the resources to see it through.
At first, Localized Therapeutics is targeting rheumatoid arthritis. Current medications only slow the progression of the disease, and many of the medications in use will lose patent protection in 2014.
It’s a potentially lucrative market. There are about 1 million people in the United States suffering from the condition, and about $23 billion is spent annually on biologic drugs.
Company officials said it will take about six years to conduct the necessary research to achieve the independent validation that is necessary before they can license the technology.