AMPEL BioSolutions Co-Founder Identifies Novel Lupus Target

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July 23 is a big day for Lupus patients – a new target for treatment has been identified.

International attention was placed on the disease today in two articles. “Drugs for Treating Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Global Markets” emphasized the growing number of Lupus patients year-by-year, and an article co-authored by AMPEL co-founder Dr. Peter Lipsky unveiled a novel pathway that could be targeted by drugs in development by pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Dr. Lipsky coordinated the scientific study published today in Science Translational Medicine, between his Charlottesville office and Peking Union Medical Center University in Beijing. Dr. Lipsky’s article was highlighted on the cover of the July 23 edition with a photograph of a growling wolf, a long-time symbol of this terrible disease.

stm_cover_jul23A hallmark of Lupus is an over-reactive immune system that attacks almost any organ system in the body. Most people have antibodies circulating in the blood that protect them from infection (such as after vaccination), however Lupus patients have circulating antibodies that attack everything from the kidneys to the brain to the skin. Dr. Lipsky and his Beijing team found that Lupus patients have abnormally low levels of a switch that puts the bad-acting autoantibody-secreting B cells to sleep. That switch is called PTEN and Dr. Lipsky’s team found that Lupus patients with a low level of PTEN exhibit a more severe disease. PTEN dampens a critical cellular activation pathway that is targeted by Gilead’s Idelalisib (Zydelig), approved by the FDA today, as well as drugs in development by Infinity Pharmaceuticals and Oncothyreon Inc., among others.

Following over 20 years of collaboration in Lupus research including time at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Lipsky and Dr. Amrie Grammer founded AMPEL BioSolutions, a biomedical consulting firm located in the University of Virginia Research Park.


Credit: Bob Anderson

One of AMPEL’s most recent projects is the LRxL-STAT (Lupus Rx List-SLE Treatment Acceleration Trials) Lupus Drug Repositioning Initiative that was launched in October of 2013 with the support of New York’s Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR) and the Lupus Research Institute (LRI).
Effective safe treatments for Lupus are sorely lacking, with only one drug approved for Lupus in the last 50 years. Over a six-month period and utilizing social media, AMPEL gathered suggestions of potential Lupus treatments (LRxL) which were then vetted by an expert committee in April 2014. In less than a year, AMPEL has put together a number of partnerships consisting of companies with a drug to be repositioned for Lupus patients with Rheumatology doctors to conduct the clinical trials, as well as scientists to understand how the drug is working , and bioinformaticists to coalesce all the results. The goal of the LRxL-STAT initiative is to develop personalized medicine for Lupus patients. The first clinical trials of the STAT initiative will kick-off in late 2014 or early 2015.

AMPEL BioSolutions is a member of the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council and Virginia Bio.

To learn more:

Amrie C. Grammer, PhD

O: (434) 296-2675 (AMPL)

C: (240) 401-8889

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