Dr Natalie Payne was awarded an Incubator Grant in 2018, fully funded by the Trish MS Research Foundation, titled, “Treating MS with cell and gene therapy”.
Dr Payne and her team have created a specially designed cell that produces a drug that targets a pathway associated with the progression of MS. The drug blocks an important signal (IL-1Beta) in the immune system decreasing specific inflammation. They have shown that the drug is “inducible” meaning that the engineered cells only produce the drug when exposed to a chemical which acts as an “on” switch. Dr Payne has also shown that the drug produced from these designer cells can block the generation of T-cells, a type of immune cell that is important for generating some of the inflammation in MS. They have also developed and optimised an experimental approach to deliver their cells into organisms so that they can serve as “mini factories” pumping out high levels of drug. Using this system, they can now produce and deliver any soluble biological drug directly in the body and assess the impact on disease outcomes in laboratory models of MS.
Building on the success of this project, Dr Payne and her team have managed to secure additional funding from a Philanthropic foundation to continue this work, and we look forward to seeing this work continue.