The Cause Of Fibrosis Found Hiding In Plain Sight

A new class of anti-fibrotic drugs may soon be in the pipeline as researchers in Singapore identify the molecule responsible for causing fibrosis in organs.

AsianScientist (Sep. 7, 2017) – Scientists in Singapore have identified a molecule that is involved in fibrotic diseases and are developing therapeutics based on this finding. They presented their work at the Annual Congress of the European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona.

Fibrosis is the formation of excessive connective tissue, similar to the formation of scar tissue during the healing process. However, the excessive connective tissue in fibrotic diseases does not heal but rather disrupts the structure and function of the organ and tissue where it forms. This process may occur in many tissues within the body and is the main pathology behind heart and renal failure.

In this study, scientists from the Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School (Duke-NUS) and the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) have discovered that a molecule known as interleukin-11 is a main contributor to fibrosis. The intellectual property (IP) arising from this discovery has been licensed to a newly launched company, Enleofen Bio Pte Ltd, a Singapore-funded biotechnology start-up.

“We discovered that a specific cytokine, interleukin-11 is a key driver and potentiator of TGF-beta2 in cardiac fibrosis. Ironically, it has been in plain sight for many years, but unfortunately for patients, this target was completely mischaracterized and hence overlooked,” explained Professor Stuart Cook, Director of the Program in Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disorders at Duke-NUS, Director of the National Heart Research Institute Singapore and a scientific founder of Enleofen Bio.

Enleofen Bio plans to use the IP derived from the Duke-NUS and NHCS research to develop first-in-class therapeutics for the treatment of multiple fibrotic human diseases including cardiac and pulmonary fibrosis.

The development of the IP was facilitated by a unique collaborative model between Duke-NUS, NHCS and the National Health Innovation Centre of Singapore. All three organizations partnered with Cook to de-risk the discovery and prepare therapeutic technologies for commercial readiness as part of an ‘Active Translation Model.’

The Enleofen Bio agreement represents a significant milestone in the development and commercialization of fundamental biomedical research conducted at Duke-NUS and SingHealth, which promises to lead to improved healthcare outcomes.

“The licensing of this IP demonstrates Duke-NUS and SingHealth’s dedication to doing impactful research and translating that science to medical solutions,” said Senior Vice Dean of Research at Duke-NUS, Professor Patrick Casey.


Source: Duke-NUS Medical School; Photo: Shutterstock.
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