With approximately 2.5 million patients worldwide, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is one of the most common causes of permanent neurological disability in young adults.
It is a chronic autoimmune disease that induces severe inflammation within the central nervous system, causing a wide variety of symptoms, including loss of balance, extreme fatigue and blurred vision. The symptoms occur when immune cells mistakenly destroy myelin, the protective covering surrounding the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
So far, there is no cure for MS. Current treatments only reduce disease relapses and carry the risk of severe side effects caused by inhibiting the patient’s immune system. What is needed is a long-lasting therapy, which will specifically target the harmful autoimmune response without affecting the rest of the immune system.
A team led by Professor Roland Martin already developed an innovative therapy known as ETIMS (Establish Tolerance in MS). This therapy employs the patient’s white blood cells and chemically couples them with myelin peptides. These altered blood cells now target the immune cells responsible for the inflammation and stop the autoimmune process by educating the immune system to tolerate structures such as myelin. This approach has been successfully tested in a first-in-man trial in MS patients.
With the ETIMSred project, the Wyss Zurich team is now advancing this therapy further by using red instead of white blood cells to induce immune tolerance. Since it is easier to collect a high number of red blood cells from patients, this approach will substantially improve the feasibility of the treatment and enable its widespread application. Treatment efficacy will probably be also improved. The key objective of the ETIMSred project is to establish the safety, tolerability and efficacy of this new approach in a phase I/II clinical trial in MS patients.
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Thomas Ludersdofer joined Wyss Zurich in October 2015. He is responsible for the ETIMSred roject management and coordination. In addition, he actively supports different aspects of product development. Thomas Ludersdorfer received his MSc in Molecular Biosciences from the Karl Franzens University Graz (Austria) and his PhD in Medical Virology form the University of Zurich. After a post-doctoral position at the Institute of Virology and Immunology in Mittelhäusern, an affiliate of the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office, he worked as Medical Affairs Manager and Quality Assurance Manager for a Swiss biotech company.
María José Docampo García
María José Docampo García has joined the ETIMSred team in July 2016. Amongst others, her responsibilities within the ETIMSred project lie in the development and implementation of various immunological studies that will accompany the clinical trials and address the mechanism/s of action of the ETIMSred approach. She was trained in Veterinary Medicine and received her MSc in Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health, as well as her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, with a focus on extracellular matrix and cancer. After completion of her doctorate, she worked on the involvement of extracellular matrix components in porcine infectious and inflammatory diseases. She has experience in a number of techniques that are of interest in the context of the tolerization project.
Regulatory Affairs Expert
Magdalena Foege is responsible for the regulatory process during the clinical development of the ETIMSred therapeutic approach. She received her MSc in Biology from the University of Silesia, Katowice (Poland) and her PhD in Clinical Immunology from the University of Freiburg (Germany). Magdalena has several years of experience in regulatory affairs within the pharmaceutical industry, and has recently specialized in regulatory aspects of investigator initiated trials.
Helen Hayward-Koennecke joined Wyss Zurich in January 2019. As a study physician, she is responsible for preparing and conducting ETIMSred clinical trials. Helen graduated from Charité hospital (Berlin, Germany), specializing in neurology, and previously worked as a senior physician at University Hospital Zurich. She has experience in translational medicine from her work on several early-phase clinical trials, and she completed a postgraduate course at the European Center of Pharmaceutical Medicine. She is currently pursuing a second specialization in pharmaceutical medicine at University Hospital Zurich’s clinical trial center.
Tamara Müller joined Wyss Zurich in October 2017 as a study nurse of the ETIMSred team. She is responsible for the organization and coordination of patient study appointments and the administration of all relevant clinical study documents. Tamara has several years’ experience as a nurse and study nurse. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) at the University of Applied Sciences Zurich in 2012. In 2017, she received a Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Clinical Trial Management.
Carla Sellés Moreno
Carla Sellés Moreno joined the ETIMSred team in May 2017. Amongst others, her responsibilities lie in the preparation of biomaterials and the processing and immunological analysis of human samples. Carla was trained in biology and received her MSc in immunology from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (2010). During her master thesis and afterwards as a research associate, she participated in the development of an antigen-specific immunotherapy based on the use of tolerogenic dendritic cells, at the preclinical level. She obtained her PhD in immunology from the Department of Experimental Immunology at the University of Zürich (2016), where she investigated the functional relevance of immune-mediated interference with clock gene expression, in the context of inflammatory bowel disease.
Mireia Sospedra will lead the immunological studies of the clinical trials and supervise mechanistic studies related to antigen specific tolerance and the mechanisms of action of the approach. She was trained in biology and immunology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona with an early focus on central immune tolerance mechanisms. During subsequent positions at the Neuroimmunology Branch of the NIH (Bethesda), the Vall D’Hebron University Hospital Barcelona and the Center for Molecular Neurobiology Hamburg, she specialized on cellular immunology in multiple sclerosis with a particular focus on the functional phenotype and antigen recognition by CD4+ T cells, as well as on antigen discovery and biomarkers. Since 2011, Mireia is heading the Neuroimmunology Laboratory at the Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich.