IMM-101 consists of heat-killed M. obuense
IMM-101 consists of heat-killed Mycobacterium obuense, an environmental bacterium present in the soil and water. M. obuense was first isolated by Professor Tsukamura in Japan. In the 1990s, Professor John Stanford, an expert in tuberculosis and mycobacteria, grew M. obuense on a special medium and isolated M. obuense NCTC13365.
He subsequently patented the use of this bacterium as an immunomodulator and its use for the treatment of cancer and a number of other diseases caused by malfunctioning of the immune system. Immodulon has the sole rights to M. obuense NCTC13365 and is actively investigating IMM-101 as an intra-dermal injection in a number of clinical trials.
Pictured: Scanning electron microscopy of Immodulon’s heat-killed mycobacteria
The discovery of M. obuense NCTC13365
The discovery of M. obuense NCTC13365 was a continuation of Professor Stanford’s earlier work on Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacterium he isolated from soil collected from Lake Kyoga in Uganda in the early 1970s1. He grew M. vaccae on a special medium and isolated M. vaccae NCTC11659. This bacterium has been shown to correct over-exuberant responses of the immune system and allows the body to deal with a wide range of pathological conditions associated with chronic inflammation, such as tuberculosis, allergic diseases and post-traumatic stress disorder. Immodulon has proprietary know-how and manufacturing knowledge of M. vaccae NCTC11659.
Pictured: Prof John L Stanford (1938-2018), co-founder of Immodulon and discoverer of M. obuense NCTC13365 and M. vaccae NCTC11659
Both M. obuense and M. vaccae are natural bacteria
Both M. obuense and M. vaccae are naturally occurring bacteria which would have been routinely consumed by our ancestors as part of their diet. Indeed, we have co-evolved with microbes present in our environment, including soil, water and food, for millions of years and they provide important signals to our immune system, with resultant benefits to our health. Our recent modern lifestyle (e.g. urban conditions, inappropriate use of antibiotics, reduced animal interaction and consumption of processed food) has altered our exposure. Earlier research provided strong evidence for the immunoregulatory properties of M. vaccae and laid the foundation for the “Old Friends Hypothesis” proposed by Professor Graham Rook2, which describes the important link between exposure to environmental micro-organisms and control of diseases caused by immunodysregulation.
Immodulon is developing a strategy to ‘re-introduce’ beneficial bacteria to patients to optimise the body’s immune response to disease.
Professor Stanford helped Harley Street surgeon
Professor Stanford helped Harley Street surgeon Dr Charles Akle to set up Immodulon in 2007. With the additional scientific support of Professor John Grange, another expert of mycobacteria with whom Professor Stanford collaborated in the cancer area3, Immodulon started to research and develop M. obuense NCTC13365 for its use in immuno-oncology, a field that was not very popular at that time. The influential Science journal listed cancer immunotherapy as the breakthrough of 2013 and in 2018 Professors James Allison and Tasuku Honjo received the Nobel prize for their scientific work that led to the development of these immune checkpoint inhibitors. Modulating and strengthening of the immune system is now seen as one of the most promising ways to eventually control or cure cancer.
Immodulon’s primary focus is cancer
Immodulon’s primary focus is cancer, however its proprietary technology platforms have potential applications in several other therapeutic areas which are being explored under license and through academic collaborations. One example is the breakthrough research of Professors Chris Lowry and Stefan Reber showing in animal models M. vaccae NCTC11659-mediated reduction of chronic inflammation in the brain, increasingly accepted as an underlying cause of disorders ranging from depression to post traumatic stress syndrome4,5. This research has featured in the news6. Another example is Professor Ford von Reyn’s long standing commitment to build on Professor Stanford’s original work by developing a vaccine for prevention of tuberculosis (known as DAR-901), which includes M. vaccae NCTC11659 as the active ingredient7.
List of References
1Stanford JL and Stanford CA. Immunobiology 1994 191(4-5):555-563
2Rook GA. Clinical and Experimental Immunology 2010 160(1):70-79
3Grange JM et al. Vaccine 2008 26(39):4984-4990
4Reber SO and Lowry CA et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2016 113(22):3130-3139
5Frank MG et al. Brain, Behavior and Immunology 2018 73:352-363
7von Reyn CF et al. PLoS One 2018 12(5):1-16