EPFL-Start Up Invents New Treatment for Autoimmune Diseases

EPFL-Start Up Invents New Treatment for Autoimmune Diseases

EPFL start-up Anokion has developed technology for retraining white blood cells that holds promise for treating autoimmune, allergic, and a number of other diseases. A group of private investors have granted the company 33 million Swiss francs (37 million dollars).

In EPFL’s Innovation Park, Anokion is developing an extremely promising technology to treat abnormal immune response conditions the first clinical trials are planned for 2017. The range of applications isn’t just limited to autoimmune disease. The body also develops immune reactions to many protein drugs used to treat hemophilia and cancer, and Anokion’s approach may be able to prevent these reactions as well.


Visualization of human T-cell
(c) EPFL

Anokion’s technology works with white blood cells, the advance guard of the immune system, which tend to calm down in the presence of cells that are dying normally at the end of their life cycle. Their cousins, the red blood cells, do just that in healthy individuals, turning over en masse on the order of 200 million per day. The researchers have now developed a technique to attach the protein responsible for triggering the immune response onto these red blood cells. The white blood cells associate the “foreign” protein with the millions of calming messages released every day by the red blood cells as they expire and the undesirable immune response disappears.

“The technology delivers proteins, be they autoimmune antigens or protein drugs, in a manner that re-trains the immune system to accept them as the body’s own,” explains Jeffrey Hubbell in charge of the laboratoy at the EPFL in a press release, “We are delighted that leading biotech venture funds have recognized the value of our approach, providing the necessary financial means to move forward.”

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