Innate Repair (iR) scientists discovered a new molecular mechanism that is involved in regeneration and cancer progression, and named it, the Hes3 Signaling Axis, after two key components. The Hes3 Signaling Axis is generally turned off in tissues. However, when damage is inflicted, it is activated and drives regeneration. This basic phenomenon has powerful consequences in neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, and oncology:
Neurodegenerative disease: Damage to the brain leads to the activation of the Hes3 Signaling Axis in resident (endogenous) neural stem cells (NSCs). The activated NSCs proliferate and produce factors that help neurons survive the damage. In preclinical models of neurodegenerative disease and ischemic stroke, this leads to powerful benefits.
Diabetes: When the endocrine pancreas (the part of the pancreas responsible for the production of insulin) is damaged, the Hes3 Signaling Axis is activated in local resident cells and helps them better survive the damage, and then regenerate the damaged endocrine pancreas. In preclinical models where the Hes3 Signaling Axis is dysfunctional, the damage is more severe, regeneration is impaired, and diabetes kick in faster.
Oncology: Tumors are aberrant tissues that have a resident stem cell population (Cancer Stem Cells) and can regenerate following damage (often caused by the anti-cancer treatments). It is no surprise, then, that the Hes3 Signaling Axis is also activated in tumors such as the aggressive brain cancer glioblastoma. It appears that the Hes3 Signaling Axis provides a mechanism for some cancer cells to evade current therapies and keep on growing and regenerating the tumor: Normally, many cancer cells grow using more traditionally studied molecular mechanisms and drugs are delivered that block them. Some cancer cells stop growing or even die; but some can switch to using the Hes3 Signaling Axis and keep on growing. It is, therefore, essential to figure out how to block the Hes3 Signaling Axis and develop treatments against it.
iR is doing exactly that: We are working to validate the efficacy of our treatments and to identify new ones to develop for the clinic. Our initial focus is on brain cancer and we are pursuing that work in the UK. We are now starting the diabetes R&D program which we will pursue in Dresden, Germany. At the same time, we are planning the neurodegenerative disease program as well.