UW startup BEATBio’s novel therapeutic may reverse heart failure

Written by CLARE LAFOND / May 22, 2015

In a recent study published in the European Journal of Heart Failure, University of Washington researchers reveal that cardiac-specific gene therapy using BB-R12, a novel biological therapy being developed by UW startup BEAT BioTherapeutics Corporation (BEATBio), may reverse the cardiac dysfunction that causes heart failure.

The study, conducted in a pig heart failure model by a team of scientists from BEATBio and the UW departments of medicine and bioengineering, showed that a single treatment with BB-R12 leads to persistent improvement in multiple measures of heart failure severity.

“The results of this study move us from rodent models forward, toward clinical testing based on BB-R12’s ability to reverse heart failure in a predictive pre-clinical model,” said BEATBio Co-founder Michael Regnier, UW professor and vice chair of bioengineering, and head of the Heart and Muscle Mechanics Laboratory.

Results from earlier studies have shown that increasing the activity of the protein ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) in the heart leads to improved cardiac performance via synthesis of deoxy-ATP (dATP), a naturally occurring molecule that powers muscle contraction. UW researchers discovered an important pathway that nature uses to regulate heart contractility: the same pathway that heart cells use to make the building blocks for DNA during embryonic growth also makes dATP to supercharge contraction whenever the adult heart becomes mechanically stressed. These findings suggest that treatments that elevate dATP levels in heart cells may prove to be an effective treatment for heart failure.

Regnier said the current study extends these observations to a human-relevant, large animal model of heart failure using BB-R12, a human gene therapy vector construct, and suggests that BB-R12 can rescue heart function following a heart attack.

“The collaboration between BEATBio and UW has been very fruitful,” said BEATBio CEO Michael Kranda. “As a company, we are now building upon years of research conducted at UW to advance BB-R12 towards clinical trials to treat heart failure. Heart failure has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. and globally due to the number of people experiencing mortality, morbidity, and impaired quality-of-life. If successfully developed, BB-R12 will make a big difference for many patients.”