Awards Registry

Therapeutic Antibodies For Treating Liver Fibrosis
Profile last edited on: 2/3/2021

Total Award Amount
Award Phase
Principal Investigator
Carlos Gustavo Pesce
Activity Indicator

Company Information

Abalone Bio Inc

2600 Hilltop Drive Building B Room C332
Richmond, CA 94806
   (510) 288-8776
Multiple Locations:   
Congressional District:   11
County:   Contra Costa

Phase I

Phase I year
Phase I Amount
Cirrhosis of the liver is among the top ten leading causes of death in the US, with more than 35,000 deaths each year. A major underlying cause of cirrhosis is liver injury associated with liver fibrosis; the pathological indication of cirrhosis is the development of scar tissue that replaces normal parenchyma. The scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver, raising blood pressure and disturbing normal function. Current drugs that treat fibrosis are not always effective. Patients are often left with “lifestyle modifications” that are difficult to sustain, and, at best, put patients in a race against disease progression. Small molecule agonists of the cannabinoid receptor CB2 have reduced liver fibrosis in several established animal models. CB2 agonists achieve this by inhibiting hepatic immune cells and hepatic stellate cells. CB2 agonism is a promising mode of action for treating liver fibrosis. However, small molecule CB2 agonists have drawbacks that undercut their effectiveness and safety, including cross-reactivity with CB1, crossing the blood- brain barrier and cross-activating CB1, causing the adverse cognitive effects of cannabinoids and rapid elimination from the body. A highly specific CB2 agonist antibody that is long-lived and restricted to peripheral tissues would be an ideal drug to test the CB2 agonism mode of action. Abalone Bio proposes 3 aims to test the feasibility of using CB2 agonist antibody drugs to treat liver fibrosis. (1) Engineer, produce, characterize CB2 agonist antibodies. VHH-Fc versions of identified hits will be made and characterized using multiple non-liver in vitro cell-based assays. (2) Assess effects of CB2 agonist antibodies on liver cells. In this aim, the antibodies from Aim 1 will be used to characterize anti-fibrotic effects in primary liver cells and stable liver cell lines in vitro. The data will bridge receptor pharmacology in standard cell lines with in vivo data from Aim 3 and can validate and expand biomarkers for fibrosis. (3) Assess anti-fibrotic effects of a CB2 agonist antibody in an in vivo model of liver fibrosis (with leading liver fibrosis expert and Consortium PI, Dr. Scott Friedman). This aim will test the feasibility of using CB2 agonism to treat liver fibrosis in thioacetamide rat models by measuring the effects of the antibody on blood markers, collagen levels, histopathology metrics, and gene expression. Success in the Phase I project will lead to a safe and effective drug for liver fibrosis, increase scientific understanding of liver disease, and define non-invasive biomarkers to monitor disease progression. Phase II (including IND-enabling studies) will involve selecting and optimizing a lead antibody, with a focus on good clinical and manufacturing attributes. This research will enable Abalone Bio to expand the impact of its CB2 antibody agonist drugs to other diseases involving fibrosis and inflammation, e.g., skin and lung diseases such as scleroderma and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Public Health Relevance Statement:
Narrative A major underlying cause of cirrhosis is liver injury associated with liver fibrosis, which involves the development of scar tissue that blocks the flow of blood through the liver, disturbing normal liver function. There are no approved drugs to treat liver fibrosis, and unapproved treatments are not always effective. In this Phase I project, Abalone Bio will develop an innovative cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) antibody agonist therapeutic that is naturally restricted to peripheral tissues by the blood-brain barrier and very specific for CB2, enabling a safe, effective antifibrogenic therapy for liver fibrosis with fewer side effects than CB2 small molecules agonists in clinical trials.

Project Terms:
abalone; Acids; Affinity; Agonist; Alcohol abuse; Animal Model; Antibodies; Apoptosis; Architecture; base; Benchmarking; Biological Assay; Biological Markers; Blood; Blood - brain barrier anatomy; Blood flow; Blood Pressure; blood-brain barrier crossing; cannabinoid receptor; Cannabinoids; Cause of Death; Cell division; Cell Line; cell type; Cells; Cellular Assay; Cessation of life; Chemistry; Chronic Disease; chronic liver disease; Cicatrix; Cirrhosis; Clinical; Clinical Trials; CNR1 gene; CNR2 gene; Cognitive; Collagen; common treatment; cross reactivity; cytokine; Data; design; Development; Disease; Disease Progression; Effectiveness; Engineering; Evaluation; Fatty acid glycerol esters; Fibrosis; Future; G-Protein-Coupled Receptors; Gene Expression; Government; Hand; Health; Hepatic; Hepatic Stellate Cell; Hepatocyte; Histopathology; Human; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; Immune; In Vitro; in vivo; in vivo Model; Inflammation; Inflammatory; innovation; Kupffer Cells; Lead; Left; Life Style Modification; Liver; Liver Cirrhosis; Liver diseases; Liver Failure; Liver Fibrosis; liver function; liver injury; Lung; Lung diseases; macrophage; Measures; Messenger RNA; Modeling; Monitor; Mus; nonalcoholic steatohepatitis; oxidation; Pathologic; Patients; Peripheral; Persons; Pharmaceutical Preparations; Pharmacology; Phase; Race; Rattus; receptor; Research; response; Rodent Model; Runaway; Safety; Sampling; Scleroderma; side effect; Site; skin disorder; small molecule; success; Technology; Testing; Text; Therapeutic; Therapeutic antibodies; Thioacetamide; Tissues

Phase II

Phase II year
Phase II Amount