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684 NEO-TRA1: A CD25-Targeted De Novo non-Alpha Agonist of the IL-2 Receptor Selectively Expands Regulatory T Cells

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Type: Oral
Session: 203. Lymphocytes and Acquired or Congenital Immunodeficiency Disorders: Delineating Immunity from Mice to Humans
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Research, autoimmune disorders, Biological therapies, Diseases, Immune Disorders, Therapies
Monday, December 12, 2022: 11:45 AM

Alex Chen1*, Giacomo Tampella2*, Alfredo Quijano-Rubio1*, Matt Walker1*, Irene Barber1*, Justin Hare1*, Justin Huard1*, Danielle Van Citters1*, Aaron Moss1*, Hector Rincon1* and Bill Arthur1*

1Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc., Seattle, WA
2Research, Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc., Seattle, WA

Introduction: Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are crucial for maintaining immune tolerance and their dysfunction contributes to inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, such as graft versus host disease (GVHD). IL-2 is a pleiotropic cytokine that activates both immunosuppressive Tregs and inflammatory cells, including NK cells, cytotoxic T cells, and helper T cells. Although low dose IL-2 therapy effectively expands Tregs, this intervention is limited by coincident stimulation of conventional T cells and natural killer cells. Investigational therapeutics derived from directed mutagenesis of native IL-2 sequences have resulted in some improvements in Treg selectivity. To optimize the magnitude and selectivity of Treg expansion, we utilized de novo protein design technology to fine-tune the individual receptor interfaces of IL-2 mimetic proteins targeted to Tregs with CD25 antibodies. We found decoupling receptor agonism and targeting is an effective means of improving Treg stimulation and corresponding therapeutic candidates elicit robust expansion of Treg populations in vivo without detectable stimulation of inflammatory immune cells.

Methods: We designed a series of de novo IL-2Ra independent agonists of the IL-2 receptor that demonstrate reduced binding affinity to CD122 and CD132, the beta and gamma chains of the IL-2 receptor complex, by up to 5 logs when compared to IL-2. These non-alpha IL-2 mimetic variants were fused to a humanized anti-CD25 mAb that lacks effector function for cis-targeting to Tregs. Candidate molecules were screened on primary human T cells to assess pSTAT5 signaling. Treg-specific molecules were administered to humanized NSG mice weekly (four times) and peripheral blood was collected for immune cell profiling via flow cytometry.

Results: Screening of TRA candidates in primary human T cells identified several highly selective Treg agonists, including NEO-TRA1 (Fig1). At all concentrations, CD8+ and CD4+ non-Tregs showed low or negligible levels of pSTAT5 signaling upon treatment with NEO-TRA1. Nevertheless, CD4+CD25highCD127low Tregs show increasing pSTAT5 signaling at a wide range of concentrations starting at 20pM, and demonstrate preferential signaling in Tregs by NEO-TRA1.

To establish the ability of our TRA to expand Treg in vivo, NSG mice engrafted with human hematopoietic stem cells to create a humanized immune system received weekly injections of NEO-TRA1, vehicle control, or a previously described Treg selective IL-2 mutein (IL-2v-Fc). Characterization of Day 13 CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Treg percentages in peripheral blood mononuclear cells show that the Treg population expanded to ~30% of total CD4+ cells in mice receiving NEO-TRA1, while Treg percentages reached ~22% in mice receiving IL-2v-Fc (Fig2). Despite a slight decrease at Day 20, the Treg percentages remained higher in NEO-TRA1-treated cohorts than in control groups throughout the study.

Conclusions: NEO-TRA1 exhibits potent expansion of Treg populations within primary human samples and in humanized mouse models. The observed profile of STAT5 phosphorylation demonstrates selective activation of Tregs over other lymphocyte populations. NEO-TRA1 is the first Treg agonist based on de novo protein design. NEO-TRA1 is both specific and potent and has high therapeutic potential for the treatment of GVHD and other autoimmune or inflammation diseases.

Disclosures: Chen: Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc.: Ended employment in the past 24 months; Mozart Therapeutics: Current Employment. Tampella: Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc: Current Employment. Quijano-Rubio: Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc.: Current equity holder in publicly-traded company, Ended employment in the past 24 months, Patents & Royalties; Monod Bio, Inc: Current Employment, Current holder of stock options in a privately-held company. Walker: Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc.: Ended employment in the past 24 months. Barber: Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Hare: Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc.: Ended employment in the past 24 months; Novo Nordisk: Current Employment. Huard: Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Van Citters: Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Moss: Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Rincon: Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Arthur: Neoleukin Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment.

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