In big news for the EB community, it was announced in January 2013 that the global pharmaceutical company, Shire, has signed an agreement to acquire Lotus Tissue Repair, the biotech company currently developing a protein replacement therapy for dystrophic EB (DEB).

Shire intends to progress the development of this therapy, which has the potential to be the first of its kind for EB. It involves the delivery of recombinant (man-made) collagen 7 protein (rC7) to patients who are missing or have dysfunctional collagen 7. The therapy approach originally emerged from the research lab of Dr. David Woodley and Dr. Mei Chen, University of Southern California. Currently, driven by Lotus, it is at the ‘late pre-clinical’ stage – the final phase of development, prior to testing in patients and, so far, the results look very promising.

Dr. Mark de Souza, the driving force behind Lotus Tissue Repair, will work closely with Shire over the coming year to ensure a smooth transition of the programme. A big part of his role, in that regard, will be facilitating the continuance of the many key relationships that he has established in the EB community, with the team at Shire. “I know that Shire Human Genetic Therapies will be a great home for our rC7 program” said Mark. “I am confident that the Shire team will complete the job that we started and that they will do so in a manner that will bring rC7 to patients as quickly as possible. I look forward to the day when this therapy will enter the clinic and I hope will change the lives of patients and families with DEB.”

Shire has a strong focus on rare human genetic diseases and considerable expertise in protein replacement therapies. This potential product for EB should therefore fit well with the company’s interests and the expertise and resources available to the company bode well for the future of the protein replacement therapy. Also very reassuringly, Shire has a prior interest in EB, in the form of a wound healing product for EB, currently in development. This product, referred to as ABH001, is a biological skin substitute, created by growing human skin cells on a mesh that can be absorbed by the body.

John Dart, Chief Operating Officer with DEBRA International, has welcomed the news of the Lotus acquisition by Shire and said “It is immensely encouraging that the future of this exciting potential therapy is in safe and experienced hands. We have worked closely with Lotus and look forward to doing so with the Shire Human Genetic Therapies division, to get protein therapy into the clinic.”

For more details, see this press release from Shire.