May 17, 2019

University of Calgary discovery of potential treatment for autoimmune diseases takes step forward

Parvus Therapeutics announces worldwide collaboration and licence agreement with Genentech to develop and commercialize Navacim therapeutics

A potentially groundbreaking investigational treatment discovered at the University of Calgary for autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease (CD) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is taking the next step toward commercialization thanks to a worldwide collaboration and licence agreement between Parvus Therapeutics and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

Parvus Therapeutics was founded by University of Calgary researcher Dr. Pere Santamaria, MD, PhD, Julia McFarlane/Diabetes Canada Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). The investigational treatment, discovered by Dr. Santamaria, is called Navacims, a precision nanomedicine designed to trigger a naturally occurring regulatory mechanism within the immune system to protect against autoimmune disease.

Potential for global benefit

“We’re thrilled that this potentially transformative and highly innovative approach, discovered through research at the University of Calgary, is advancing toward the clinic where it could possibly have the opportunity to broadly impact those who suffer from these serious diseases here in our community and around the world,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, president of the University of Calgary. “Across our campuses, our researchers are making important discoveries like this in the life sciences. Our priority is to ensure we take full advantage of every opportunity to develop our discoveries into tangible products to benefit society.”

When Parvus was founded in 2009, the company received crucial support from UCalgary’s technology transfer and business incubator, Innovate Calgary, to get them off the ground and maintain the company through the early stages of development.

Pre-clinical models demonstrate broad impact

First established as a viable therapeutic approach in a study published in the science journal Nature in 2016, pre-clinical disease models with Navacims have demonstrated broad therapeutic activity and disease reversal across a range of autoimmune disorders including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune liver diseases (ALD) and IBD while consistently preserving the immune system’s ability to resist viral, microbial, and tumour challenges.

The agreement with Genentech is for development of Navacim treatments for CD, ALD and IBD. Parvus has previously entered into a licence and collaboration agreement with Novartis to apply the Navacim technology to the development of Navicim drugs to treat Type 1 diabetes. 

“As a researcher, it is a privilege to have the potential opportunity to make an impact on the lives of people who suffer from these conditions,” says Dr. Santamaria, a member of the Snyder Institute of Chronic Diseases and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary.

Autoimmune diseases affect millions of Canadians

Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body after incorrectly identifying them as foreign. More than 80 autoimmune diseases affect people around the world, including millions of Canadians.

“Our collaboration with Genentech is now the second partnership that we’ve entered into with a major biopharmaceutical company, which we believe reinforces the potential of our Navacim immunoregulatory therapeutic platform,” says Curtis Ruegg, PhD, president and CEO of Parvus, which has offices in Calgary and San Francisco. “Partnering with Genentech will enable Parvus to expand the Navacim pipeline to address several debilitating autoimmune diseases in gastroenterology.”

For more information on this announcement, see the news release from Parvus Therapeutics.


What happens when the body attacks itself?