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Finding New Drugs for SLE Patients

Monday, September 26, 2016  
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Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that can affect any organ of the body, from the kidneys to the skin to the brain. The immune system that usually fight off infections gets confused and starts attacking the body’s own organs with the same vigor. Lupus can cause severe joint pain, circulatory problems, hair loss and fever, and it will often flare up during stressful life events. Lupus is hard on patients and their families, because it is so difficult to diagnose and because only one new treatment has been approved for lupus in the last 50 years.
Thanks to advances in research by AMPEL BioSolutions, patients with a Lupus diagnosis have real hope of finding a cure because of the development of aggressive new treatments. Most people have antibodies circulating in their blood that protect them from infection (i.e. after vaccination).  Lupus patients have antibodies that attack their bodies from cells to tissues such as kidneys, brain and skin. 

At the University of Virginia Research Park in Charlottesville, AMPEL BioSolutions founded by Dr. Peter Lipsky and a UVA Alum, Dr. Amrie Grammer, focuses on identifying new drug targets for lupus patients. AMPEL started by looking through all the FDA approved drugs and identifying top candidates for lupus patients that could be “repositioned” from other diseases for testing in clinical trials. The need for drug repositioning is urgent since traditional drug discovery has yielded only one FDA-approved treatment for lupus in fifty years and standard-of-care treatments for lupus patients have serious side effects.  Drug Repositioning is an important alternative, since it can be used to quickly bring treatments to patients whose side effects and mechanism of action are well-characterized.  Typical drug development takes about 10-15 years and 1.5 billion dollars.  Drug repositioning brings drugs to patients faster and more economically than the traditional model.

"Our study shows the benefit of using multiple methods to accurately pinpoint potentially effective treatments for lupus among existing drugs," said Dr. Lipsky. "Since these drugs have already been extensively tested for other diseases, studies to test their effectiveness in lupus are far less risky and can be completed much more quickly than trials of investigational compounds.”

The team is making great strides and already identified new and unexpected approaches to treat patients with lupus. The results of three years of work to identify candidate drugs and therapies to reposition into systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) was just published in the journal Lupus.

"Repurposing already-approved drugs holds tremendous benefit for people with lupus," said Kenneth M. Farber, Co-CEO of Lupus Research Alliance. "In tandem with LRxL-STAT, we created the Lupus Clinical Investigators Network (LuCIN) with the ability to conduct small trials that test lupus drug candidates quickly. The end result – people with lupus can be treated with safer and more effective drugs far faster."

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