Research earns Hebrew University researcher the 2015 Kaye Innovation Award

Antibody holds promise for delay or early treatment of type 1 diabetes.

A diabetes blood sugar test  (photo credit: REUTERS)
A diabetes blood sugar test
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hebrew University researchers have identified a protein receptor’s important role in the development of type 1 diabetes, and an antibody that could be used to treat the autoimmune disease that affects over 30 million people worldwide.
The research that formed the basis for developing the antibody has earned Prof.
Ofer Mandelboim HU’s prestigious 2015 Kaye Innovation Award.
Type 1 diabetes, which usually first appears in children and adolescents, results from the destruction of insulin- producing beta cells in the pancreas, because the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies them as foreign invaders. This results in potentially fatal high levels of sugar in the blood and urine unless the patient is treated immediately and chronically with injectable insulin to balance sugar levels.
Mandelboim, a researcher at HU’s Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research at the Faculty of Medicine’s Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), identified the important role played by the NKp46 protein receptor in type 1 diabetes. Mandelboim and his team found that the NKp46 receptor present on natural killer (NK cells), which are a key part of the immune system, play a critical role in the development of the disease in mice. This occurs because the receptor recognizes pancreatic beta cells, leading to their destruction.
The research also showed that inhibiting the NKp46 receptor almost entirely prevented the development of diabetes. If replicated in humans, this could significantly delay and prevent, the need for chronic insulin use by type 1 diabetes patients and help minimize diabetes- related complications.
The mouse studies suggest that BL-9020 can inhibit beta cell death in the pancreas, thus preventing full maturation of type 1 diabetes. In humans, it could potentially treat type 1 diabetes in early stage patients, during what is known as the “honeymoon period” when the pancreatic beta cells have not been completely destroyed and continue to secrete insulin.
This groundbreaking research is the basis for Bio- LineRx’s BL-9020, a monoclonal antibody that targets the NK receptor. HU’s technology transfer company Yissum, together with partners, signed an exclusive license agreement with BioLineRx to develop and commercialize BL-9020 for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.
BioLineRx is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to identifying, in-licensing and developing promising therapeutic candidates.
In January last year, BioLineRx entered into a collaboration agreement with JHL Biotech for the further development and commercialization of BL-9020 in China and additional Southeast Asian countries. The type 1 diabetes market was estimated at over $3.5 billion in 2012.
The Kaye Innovation Awards have been given annually since 1994. Isaac Kaye from the United Kingdom, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, established the awards to encourage HU faculty, staff and students to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential which will benefit the university and society.