New Research that re-educates the immune system
Professor Ranjeny Thomas
Arthritis Qld Chair of Rheumatology
Faculty of Medicine
Professor Thomas’ research is focused on the study of the biology and clinical use of human dendritic cells in autoimmune disease. It has explored basic mechanisms of immunity and dendritic cell function in autoimmune disease.
Her research is focussed on the study of autoimmune disease and restoration of tolerance. Through this work, she developed and tested the first rheumatoid arthritis vaccine. She has also contributed major insights into the pathogenesis of spondyloarthropathy and autoimmune diabetes, leading to the development of disease biomarkers and innovative immunotherapies.
1. Antigen-specific immunotherapy. My team and I developed and have a granted patent for a liposome immunotherapy strategy to induce antigen-specific tolerance in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It is the first to specifically target ACPA autoantibody-positive patients carrying RA-susceptibility gene variants, each identifiable with existing tests. The product, DEN181 was developed by Dendright, the Uniquest spin-off company founded to commercialize the liposome technology, in partnership and option to licence with Janssen-Biotech, the US pharmaceutical subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, for the indication of RA. DEN-181 completed a single-dose ascending phase 1 clinical trial in RA at PA Hospital in 2019 (PI – Phillip Vecchio). Mechanistic pre-clinical studies were published in Galea et al, JCI Insight 2019.
2. To translate antigen-specific immunotherapy to children with type 1 diabetes, we carried out pre-clinical studies with Emma Hamilton-Williams and Mark Harris. I am PI on a grant to this team from JDRF and the US Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust for a clinical trial of liposomes encapsulating NF-kB inhibitor and diabetes-specific peptide in patients with T1D. We are currently undertaking pre-clinical development. Mechanistic pre-clinical studies were published in Bergot et al, J Immunol 2020.
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