Who and what is POLYNEURON?
Polyneuron is a pharmaceutical spin-off of the University of Basel founded in late 2014, building on excellent expertise in carbohydrate-based drug discovery and clinical neurology. The company’s Antibody-Catch™ technology platform enables the chemical design of injectable glycopolymers. These glycopolymers are designed to selectively eliminate autoantibodies in autoimmune disease patients, while leaving the immune system intact.
This pioneering therapeutic approach holds great potential for effective and safe treatments for antibody-mediated autoimmune diseases. Polyneuron’s platform focus in on rare but devastating autoimmune diseases of the nervous system with an unmet medical need and where the pathological role of anti-carbohydrate autoantibodies is well established.
With funding of about CHF 5 million to date, Polyneuron delivered a preclinical proof of principle with its main asset PN-1007 for the treatment of anti-MAG neuropathy and obtained the orphan drug designation from the European Medicines Agency. In addition, the basis could be laid for a promising pipeline – the Antibody-Catch™ technology platform has a broad applicability scope and can be used to target carbohydrate-binding proteins in the broadest sense. Polyneuron strives to make Antibody-Catch™ a clinical reality and hopes to make a difference in the lives of people suffering from devastating diseases.
Paradigm shifts in autoimmune diseases
The Antibody-Catch™ platform technology enables the development of biodegradable and injectable glycopolymers for highly specific interception of autoimmune disease antibodies. We are currently focusing on autoimmune diseases of the peripheral nervous system that involve autoantibodies against carbohydrate epitopes.
Get in touch
Polyneuron Pharmaceuticals AG
c/o Basel Inkubator
How does “Antibody-Catch™” work?
Antibody-Catch™ is a platform technology developed by Polyneuron for the treatment of antibody-mediated autoimmune diseases. It facilitates the rational design of drugs that bind and block disease-causing autoantibodies. The platform-derived drugs are biodegradable high-molecular weight glycopolymers that offer multiple epitope-mimics to the autoantibodies. As a result, the drug serves as a decoy for the autoantibody, which gets sequestered and eliminated from the body. This highly specific treatment approach is fundamentally new and could potentially enable treatment options for previously incurable diseases.
Polyneuron currently focuses on autoimmune diseases which involve autoantibodies against carbohydrate epitopes.
The drugs that are derived from the Antibody-Catch™ platform hold great potential for a specific and especially safe immunotherapy. This is achieved by designing glycopolymer drugs, which are of low immunogenicity due to their carbohydrate nature. Polyneuron has extensive know-how in carbohydrate-based drug discovery and currently focuses to employ the Antibody-Catch™ technology for autoimmune diseases which involve autoantibodies against carbohydrate epitopes.
Safety & Manufacturing
Multifocal motor neuropathy
ABO-incompatible organ & stem cell transplantation
PN-032 & PN-056
Shigellosis & hemolytic uremic syndrome
Effective and selective
PN-1007 for the treatment of anti-MAG neuropathy
PN-1007 was designed to target the IgM autoantibodies that cause anti-MAG neuropathy. It mimics the natural HNK-1 carbohydrate epitope and strongly binds to the disease-causing antibodies in vitro. Thus, it blocks autoantibody-binding to the natural HNK-1 epitope on MAG at very low concentrations. In vivo the drug efficiently eliminates circulating anti-MAG antibodies. In 2017, promising in vivo proof of principle data has been published in the renowned journal PNAS. Polyneuron has already obtained the orphan drug designation from the European Medicines Agency for PN-1007 in anti-MAG neuropathy. CMC for PN-1007 has been stablished to major extent and clinical trial-enabling safety studies are ongoing. Treatment with PN-1007 would be the first antigen-specific therapy for anti-MAG neuropathy and therefore can be expected to be much more effective and selective in its mode of action compared to current unspecific immunosuppressive treatments for the disease, which are used off-label. PN-1007 may protect myelin sheaths in patients by eliminating the pathogenic antibodies and thus potentially even enable myelin restoration.
Preventing binding events
PN-1018 for treatment of multifocal motor neuropathy (MMN)
PN-1018 is being developed for the treatment of multifocal motor neuropathy (MMN). PN-1018 presents multiple mimics of the natural GM1 carbohydrate epitope that is attacked by affinity-matured anti-GM1 autoantibodies in patients suffering from MMN. Thus it acts as a scavenger for the pathogenic antibodies. To date we have shown, that PN-1018 glyopolymers can efficiently block the binding of pathogenic anti-GM1 autoantibodies of neuropathy patients to GM1 in vitro. Further in vitro and in vivo evaluation of PN-1018 has been initiated. PN-1018 has the potential to eliminate anti-GM1 autoantibodies in patients suffering from MMN and may preserve the motor nerves by blocking antibody-mediated as well as complement-mediated pathogenic anti-GM1 antibody effects.
PN-032 & PN-056 for ABO-incompatible transplantation
PN-032 & PN-056 are developed for the selective in vivo depletion of isoagglutinin antibodies (anti-A and anti-B blood group antibodies). The A and B antigens are carbohydrate structures which are present on hematopoietic cells, endothelia, and many other tissues. The antibodies against these carbohydrate antigens present a key hurdle for organ and stem cell transplantations with ABO-blood group incompatibility. The ABO hurdle can be overcome by depletion of isoagglutinin antibodies which is nowadays achieved with multiple extracorporeal plasmapheresis or immunoadsorption cycles. These treatments are very cumbersome and time-consuming for the patients. In some cases, immunosuppressive treatment is used to suppress the production of isoagglutinin antibodies. Our compounds PN-032 & PN-056 can be conveniently administered as injectables. These compounds selectively bind and remove the isoagglutinin antibodies and furthermore potentially induce a down-regulation of isoagglutinin production, which would provide an additional benefit for the patients and potentially promote the survival of the transplant.
Getting things done
Ruben is a co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Polyneuron. Since the company inception Ruben was substantially responsible for the raising of CHF 5m for Polyneuron, including a CHF 3.1m Financing A round, for the setup of a highly motivated core team, and for delivering on key company objectives. Polyneuron’s success has been recognized by several start-up prices and grants. Ruben holds an M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Basel. During his time at University he specialized on drug discovery for neuromuscular orphan diseases and was co-inventor of the Antibody-Catch™ technology and Polyneuron’s most advanced asset PN-1007.
Pascal is a co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Polyneuron. He is responsible for the company’s research & development activities as well as regulatory affairs. Since the company foundation Pascal was instrumental in delivering on key company milestones in preclinical drug development, the management of contract research activities, and the interaction with health authorities. He holds a M.Sc. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Basel and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Zürich in Molecular Medicine. During this time he specialized on hematological diseases. Importantly, he then laid the scientific foundation for a promising novel treatment of a hematological orphan disorder and was also involved in the setup of a clinical trial.
Michael joined Polyneuron in January 2018 and is now responsible for the company’s business development activities as Chief Business Officer. He furthermore supports the executive team in financing and drug development aspects. Michael has more than fifteen years’ experience in life science industry, including biotech. He is a board member of various life science companies. Most recently, he was Chief Scientific Officer and member of the Board of Directors of GlycoVaxyn, a company that he co-founded in 2004 and was acquired by GSK in February 2015 for USD 212m. He holds a M.Sc. in Biochemistry from the ETHZ and completed his Ph.D. and post-doctoral fellowship in Microbiology at ETHZ. During this time he was an inventor of the GlycoVaxyn technology.
Board of Directors
Prof. Ernst is a co-founder of Polyneuron and Chairman of the board. He was Head of the Institute of Molecular Pharmacy at the University of Basel for many years. He is a renowned expert in the synthesis and pharmacological evaluation of carbohydrate-based drugs. Prof. Ernst has an extensive track record in drug discovery. Rivipansel (GMI-1070), a compound invented by Prof. Ernst in collaboration with GlycoMimetics, has demonstrated clinical proof-of-concept as a treatment for vaso-occlusive crises in patients with sickle cell anemia. Rivipansel was licensed by GlycoMimetics to Pfizer and entered Phase 3 under FDA Special Protocol Assessment in June, 2015. Furthermore, Prof. Ernst was substantially involved in development of Polyneuron's Antibody-Catch™ technology and its main asset PN-1007.
Dr. Peter E. Burckhardt is a board member since 2016. He represents “EVA – the Basel life sciences start-up agency” as lead investor in Polyneuron’s Financing A round. He acted as CEO of EVA from 2006 to 2016 and is now the president of EVA. Since 2009, Peter Burckhardt is president of the BioValley Business Angels Club BioBAC. In addition, he is a member of the board of BAK Basel. Peter is a trained chemist who earned his doctorate from the University of Basel. He started his career in pharmaceutical research at Ciba-Geigy in 1984, and subsequently held several management positions in the areas of research, development, production, and communication. From 1996 to 1999 he was CEO of Ciba-Geigy’s Animal Health division in Germany.
Dr. Gerhard Müller is a board observer since early 2018. He is an experienced drug hunter who has successfully managed research units and led drug discovery projects within the pharmaceutical, the CRO, and the biotech industry. Currently he serves as the Chief Scientific Officer at the New York-based biotech company Gotham Therapeutics. Over the last 6 years, Gerhard has successfully established from scratch the medicinal chemistry business unit at Mercachem, a Dutch Chemistry CRO. Prior to that, he held CSO and Vice President positions at Proteros Fragments, GPC Biotech, and Axxima Pharmaceuticals. Gerhard began his industry career at Glaxo in Verona, followed by project management positions at Bayer AG in Leverkusen, and was head of medicinal chemistry at Organon in the Netherlands. He holds a PhD in organic chemistry obtained from the Technical University of Munich, where he discovered anti-adhesive integrin antagonists under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Horst Kessler.
Scientific Advisory Board
Please see under section Board of Directors.
Prof. Steck is a co-founder of Polyneuron. Previously, he was head of the Neurology Clinic of the University Hospital Basel from 1993 to 2007. He is a highly respected medical expert in the field of neurological diseases, in particular in the area of immune-mediated neuropathies. He also held various prestigious positions such as President of the Swiss Neurological Society and President of the European Neurological Society. With his neurology know-how and valuable clinical network Prof. Steck supports Polyneuron particularly with respect to the clinical development of PN-1007.
Jochen Kinter is a senior researcher in the neuromuscular research group at the University Hospital of Basel. He is a biochemist/neurobiologist by training and has gained extensive know-how in the field of molecular mechanisms of neurological and neuromuscular diseases. He has worked in the area of immune-mediated neuropathies as well as multiple sclerosis and is supporting Polyneuron with his expertise.
Dr. Rudolf Duthaler studied chemistry at the ETH-Zürich. After a postdoctoral stay at the California Institute of Technology he was for 6 years leading a research group at the ETH. In 1986 he moved to Basel – Central Research Laboratories of Ciba-Geigy – , where he was involved in diverse projects ranging from technical applications to synthetic methodology and biologically active molecules for pharmaceuticals and crop protection. After the merger with Sandoz he entered the pharmaceutical research of Novartis in the area of autoimmune diseases, transplantation and inflammation. He was involved in the development of a polymeric injectable drug GAS914, designed for the removal of natural antibodies directed against carbohydrate antigens, the first line of defense in xenotransplantation. With this expertise he supports Polyneuron in CMC aspects.