Author(s): Van Roy M, Ververken C, Beirnaert E, , Hoefman S,
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Abstract INTRODUCTION: The pleiotropic cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of different diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). ALX-0061 is a bispecific Nanobody┬« with a high affinity and potency for IL-6 receptor (IL-6R), combined with an extended half-life by targeting human serum albumin. We describe here the relevant aspects of its in vitro and in vivo pharmacology. METHODS: ALX-0061 is composed of an affinity-matured IL-6R-targeting domain fused to an albumin-binding domain representing a minimized two-domain structure. A panel of different in vitro assays was used to characterize the biological activities of ALX-0061. The pharmacological properties of ALX-0061 were examined in cynomolgus monkeys, using plasma levels of total soluble (s)IL-6R as pharmacodynamic marker. Therapeutic effect was evaluated in a human IL-6-induced acute phase response model in the same species, and in a collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) model in rhesus monkeys, using tocilizumab as positive control. RESULTS: ALX-0061 was designed to confer the desired pharmacological properties. A 200-fold increase of target affinity was obtained through affinity maturation of the parental domain. The high affinity for sIL-6R (0.19 pM) translated to a concentration-dependent and complete neutralization of sIL-6R in vitro. In cynomolgus monkeys, ALX-0061 showed a dose-dependent and complete inhibition of hIL-6-induced inflammatory parameters, including plasma levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), fibrinogen and platelets. An apparent plasma half-life of 6.6 days was observed after a single intravenous administration of 10 mg/kg ALX-0061 in cynomolgus monkeys, similar to the estimated expected half-life of serum albumin. ALX-0061 and tocilizumab demonstrated a marked decrease in serum CRP levels in a non-human primate CIA model. Clinical effect was confirmed in animals with active drug exposure throughout the study duration. CONCLUSIONS: ALX-0061 represents a minimized bispecific biotherapeutic of 26 kDa, nearly six times smaller than monoclonal antibodies. High in vitro affinity and potency was demonstrated. Albumin binding as a half-life extension technology resulted in describable and expected pharmacokinetics. Strong IL-6R engagement was shown to translate to in vivo effect in non-human primates, demonstrated via biomarker deregulation as well as clinical effect. Presented results on preclinical pharmacological properties of ALX-0061 are supportive of clinical development in RA.
This article was published in Arthritis Res Ther
and referenced in Rheumatology: Current Research