Unlocking the full potential of Interleukins

Interleukins are at the core of Medicenna’s therapies. We engineer these biological molecules to dampen, fine-tune, and amplify the immune system.

What are Interleukins?

Interleukins are a subset of a larger group of cellular messenger molecules called cytokines. They are used to regulate immune response by performing a range of functions, such as helping to locate foreign pathogens, driving the maturation of immune cells and mediating cellular communications.

Interleukins are produced by many immune cells ― ranging from macrophages to natural killer cells. What’s more, there are approximately 30 types, each with its own distinct set of functions. As more research is done on these molecules, it’s increasingly clear that interleukins have value beyond the human immune system.

Interleukins attach to specific receptors on the surfaces of immune cells, pathogens, and even tumor cells. This sets off a series of events that can mobilize the immune system to act or suppress its function to stop damage. However, many tumors secrete factors that dampen T cell and other immune cell activity in their microenvironment, enabling these tumors to thrive. This is where interleukins can make a difference for cancer patients. Because of their innate functions, they have the potential to enable the immune system to reverse the effect of the tumor microenvironment and eliminate cancer.

The Power of the Medicenna Superkine Platform

The immune response is an intricate network of signals and interacting cells, which activate, deactivate, or sustain activity. Medicenna’s Superkines have the ability to balance this network to better battle disease.

Our scientific platform enables us to transform natural interleukins into Superkines, which are enhanced to combat a specific disease. For example, Superkines could alter the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment, deliver cell-killing agents without harming healthy cells, or turn off destructive autoimmune processes.

Directed Evolution and the Superkine Library

Medicenna focuses on creating its therapies using interleukins from three major families: IL-2, IL-4 and IL-13. These three families are known to modulate immune activity against 2000 different diseases.

Although IL-2, IL-4, and IL-13 function well, they sometimes need a push in the right direction to effectively treat diseases without causing undue toxicity. This push is achieved by a process called “directed evolution”, which involves making subtle changes in the sequence of the interleukins, mimicking natural evolution. This cleverly transforms the interleukin from a random protein to a deliberate and precise therapeutic.

Through this process, we created a library of tunable cytokines called Superkines. These Superkines are engineered to address the underlying mechanisms of the particular disease – such as binding to certain receptor types over others – while retaining their natural forms in order to be recognizable by the body.

Empowered Superkines

Directed evolution is just the beginning for Superkines. We believe that fusing them with other proteins, cytokines, antibodies and even toxins can dramatically expand their functionality and transform them into Empowered Superkines.

We intelligently design Superkine fusions to enhance certain characteristics — for example,  improving pharmacodynamics and safety, or enhancing their half-life to limit dosing issues — or add new capabilities, such as the ability to deliver a payload of the cell-killing toxin.

Discover more about how we’ve turned Superkines into therapeutic candidates.