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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is an umbrella term for a group of chronic autoimmune conditions of the gut, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD negatively affects the health and quality of life of more than 1.6 million people in the United States.

IBD is generally caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors that lead to dysregulation of the immune system and overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines by monocytes, macrophages, and T cells in the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Instead of protecting the gut lining from harm, the over-reactive immune system instead begins to attack benign and beneficial components of the intestines—including bacteria, products of digestion, and the cells of the mucosal gut lining—causing damage accompanied by debilitating symptoms.

Available treatments for IBD include aminosalicylates, immunosuppressive corticosteroids, antibiotics, immunomodulators, and biologics that target pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF), specific interleukins, and the integrin receptor pathway. However, many of these therapies can have harsh systemic side effects, can cause dangerous immunosuppression, and are ineffective in many cases. For example, TNF inhibitors show clinical remission in less than 30% to 35% of patients, leading to a continued unmet medical need for effective and durable therapy. For many patients, colectomy may be the last option.

VEN120 for IBD

Recent science has suggested that certain subsets of pro-inflammatory T lymphocytes are responsible for much of the chronic pathology of IBD. In the healthy immune system, the activity of these pro-inflammatory T cells is modulated by regulatory T cells. Also known as Treg, these cells are essential for establishing immune self-tolerance in infants and maintaining it throughout a person’s lifetime.

Ventria Bioscience’s lead therapeutic candidate for inflammatory disease, VEN120, is a recombinant form of human lactoferrin. Lactoferrin is a single-chain, iron-binding glycoprotein present in multiple mucosal fluids and is a major protein component of human breastmilk. This protein has previously been identified for its multifactorial and beneficial effects in several models of human health including inflammation, wound healing, and infectious diseases.

Ventria Bioscience is currently developing lactoferrin as an orally available treatment for the management of IBD. In preclinical models of IBD, we have found that, rather than simply suppressing the immune response like other treatments, VEN120 protects against tissue damage from proinflammatory cytokines by interacting with the immune system and skewing the balance of T cell populations toward the immunomodulatory Treg phenotype, which may aid in quieting inflammation and promoting renewed immune self-tolerance. In addition, Ventria’s research has found that VEN120 has positive effects on the gut microbiota diversity and preferentially promotes the health of bacterial species that may reduce gut inflammation.