Jean-Marie Saint-Remy, Founder and CSO
Innate immunity has often been considered a non-specific or antigen-independent mechanism that instantly fights the intruding pathogen. But Belgium-based Equaly believes otherwise. The company discovered that some innate responses are antigen-specific, and the same philosophy laid the foundation for the organization. “Our company focuses on innate immunity in a context which is antigen-specific, which precedes and dictates the quality of adaptive immunity,” elaborates Jean-Marie Saint-Remy, founder and CSO at Equaly.
This makes Equaly the first organization around the globe to unlock the potential of innate immune system. The team at Equaly has discovered that many of the biologicals injected into patients activate innate immunity first, and if we eliminate the innate immunity activation, we prevent further immunization. Hence, the company offers a platform that makes biologicals and viral vectors non-immunogenic. As biologicals are often immunogenic and trigger an unwanted response in patients, they ultimately limit the impact of the treatments. Equaly’s platform changes these dynamics related to the use of biologicals and viral vectors and helps improve the existing molecules and viral vectors. The company optimizes the biologicals and viral vectors in a way that they get rid of the unwanted immunogenicity in the innate as well as the adaptive immune system.
Another critical offering that Equaly has in its portfolio is the ability to create new immunotherapies for cancer and infectious diseases. “There are situations where you wish to increase the immunity if a patient has an infection or suffers from cancer.
In such cases, all we need to do is elicit a population of cells, which has the potential to recognize only the infected or cancer cells and destroy them,” explains Jean-Marie. His company does the same through its platform. To destroy the site of toxicity in the patient’s body Equaly elicits a population of Natural Killer T (NKT) cells to recognize and eliminate the infected cells. The use of Equaly’s technology, however, goes beyond that. The company brings another platform that could stop the evolution of diseases like type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Equaly’s platform, called the regulatory NKT, develops autoantigen-specific treatments that suppress the inflammation, resulting in effective treatment. “We have some data on an auto-immune disease which clarifies that the NKT cells specific for the auto antigen cannot only switch off the immune response but also the inflammation in the tissue organ touched by the disease and also trigger a mechanism of tissue repair. So, with our platform, we might have something for the first time ever that could not only stop the evolution of auto-immune diseases but also recover some of the properties that have been lost,” adds Jean-Marie, elaborating on how the company has discovered ways to deal with the inflammation in the tissue organs.
This makes Equaly the first organization around the globe to unlock the potential of innate immune system.
All of Equaly’s platforms are an outcome of its continuous and rigorous research work in immunology. In the future, too, the company will continue focusing on research to explore more possibilities of introducing cures to diseases. This is one area that the organization has always been focused on. In hemophilia A for instance, characterized by a lack of functional factor VIII, Equaly has already designed a non-immunogenic factor VIII. But the team at Equaly believes that there are other possibilities beyond this to treat the said condition, one of which is practicing gene therapy. Equaly is thus working around the concept of gene therapy and gene editing to replace or correct the DNA sequence, which could represent a cure of disease. Collectively, it is these discoveries that define Equaly’s history as well as the future roadmap in the industry. As Jean-Marie says, Equaly will continue to be an R&D organization focused more on research than development.