Discovery to target potentially fatal illness

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SCIENTISTS in Yorkshire have developed a ground-breaking therapy to target the progression of a life-threatening condition.

Fibrosis causes progressive tissue scarring which can affect any organ and can ultimately prove fatal.

It is a primary cause of major organ failure and a complicating factor in chronic diseases among them diabetes and high blood pressure.

Now experts at Sheffield University have devised an approach harnessing antibodies which blocks the action of a key enzyme involved in kidney fibrosis.

The breakthrough to target a crucial step in the progression of the disease, which currently has no cure, is the culmination of two decades of work.

The team behind it believes it should also work for lung, liver and heart fibrosis.

Prof Tim Johnson, from the university’s academic nephrology unit, said: “The development of these therapeutic antibodies is the culmination of 20 years work to identify the role of a key target in the tissue scarring process where it is possible to understand its mechanism of action and then develop a way to specifically target it.”

The work has been backed by support from charities including Kidney Research UK, Diabetes UK and the Wellcome Trust and was carried out in collaboration with MRC Technology, a technology transfer charity which specialises in helping early discoveries progress.

It has led to the development of a fibrosis therapy programme and an exclusive licensing deal has been signed with global biopharmaceutical company UCB which will take forward work to bring the treatment to patients.

Revenue made from the licensing agreement will be shared with Sheffield University and will be reinvested to support other programmes in its drug discovery laboratories.