The complement system plays a pivotal role in both innate and adaptive immune systems. Complement proteins are produced primarily by the liver and circulate in the blood and through the body’s tissues. The complement system may be activated through three principal pathways, known as the classical, lectin and alternative pathways, each of which requires the C3 protein to enable three principal immune responses: opsonization, inflammation and formation of the membrane attack complex. When C3 is activated, C3 fragments, such as C3b, tag cell surfaces in a process called opsonization, which marks the cells for removal from tissues or the bloodstream. Two other fragments, C3a and C5a, are released, contributing to inflammation in the surrounding tissues. Further complement activation causes membrane attack complex formation on cell surfaces, piercing holes and causing cells to lyse, or rupture.
Under conditions of excessive or uncontrolled activation, the complement system is believed to play a key role in the incidence and progression of several autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. In these diseases, the complement system acts directly through tissue destruction by the membrane attack complex and indirectly by signaling other elements of the immune system to inappropriately target otherwise healthy tissues. Because the contribution of complement activation to the development and progression of these diseases is not fully understood, it has been difficult to develop therapeutics that ameliorate the conditions contributing to these diseases by targeting only one of the complement activation pathways.
Complement activation and its effects can be inhibited in multiple ways. By targeting complement proteins upstream of C3, one of the three principal activation pathways can be inhibited. For example, inhibition of factor D results in inhibition of the alternative pathway, but not the classical or lectin pathways. The complement system can also be inhibited by targeting complement proteins downstream of C3, which results in limited inhibition of complement effects. For example, inhibition of C5 leads to inhibition of the formation of the membrane attack complex and C5a-mediated inflammation, but does not affect opsonization or C3a-mediated inflammation.
We have designed APL-2 to target complement proteins centrally at the level of C3. We believe that this approach can result in broad inhibition of the complement pathways and has the potential to effectively control complement-dependent diseases, including GA, PNH, AIHA and complement-dependent nephropathies. We believe that APL-2 has the potential to be a best-in-class treatment and may address the limitations of existing treatment options or provide a treatment option where there is none.