What is the basis of the company’s technology?
Galectins are a class of proteins that are made by many cells in the body, but most concentrated normally in immune cells. As a group, these proteins are able to bind to sugar molecules that are part of other proteins in and on the cells of our body. Galectin proteins act as a kind of glue, bringing together molecules that have sugars on them. Galectin proteins are known to be markedly increased in a number of important diseases including scaring of organs (eg. liver, lung, kidney, and heart) and cancers of many kinds. The increase in galectin protein promotes the disease and is detrimental to the patient.
What drug compounds has the company developed?
Galectin Therapeutics' drugs bind to galectin proteins and disrupt their function which has a beneficial effect on the disease states. Our drug candidates in development were generated from naturally occurring carbohydrate polymers using proprietary chemistry. Two major classes of galectin inhibiting carbohydrate polymers have been developed, the GM-CT and GR-MD series. The two drugs that are currently in development include GM-CT-01 and GR-MD-02. While these two compounds are produced from completely different natural starting materials, both possess the property of binding to and inhibiting galectin proteins.
What are the diseases that the company is focused on?
Scarring, or fibrosis, of Organs
When an internal organ is exposed to chronic disease one of the responses is that scar tissue is laid down in the organ (this process is called fibrosis). The longer the disease affects the organ, the more fibrous tissue is deposited and this ultimately results in the failure of the organ. This chronic fibrosis of organs may occur in the liver, lung, kidney, heart as well as others and, as a result, fibrosis of organs has been estimated to account for as much as 45% of all mortality. One of the exciting scientific findings of the last few years is that the galectin-3 protein is critically important in this fibrotic process in multiple organs.
In the liver, fibrosis is the end result of multiple inflammatory conditions and infections. Progressive liver fibrosis leads to scarring (cirrhosis), which results in reduction of liver function, multiple medical complications and ultimately death. Nearly 500,000 patients have cirrhosis in the United States with close to 50,000 losing their lives yearly. Only a fraction of patients' lives were saved by liver transplantation at a cost of $350,000 per transplantation. One condition in particular that frequently leads to cirrhosis is non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), or fatty liver, a liver disease characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver with associated inflammation and fibrosis which can lead to end-stage cirrhosis requiring liver transplantation. The National Institute of Health estimates that 9 to 15 million Americans are affected by NASH and forecasts that the number of Americans affected by this disease is growing due to obesity and diabetes, with the potential to become the leading cause of liver cirrhosis and liver transplantation in the future. Liver transplantation is currently the only therapeutic approach to NASH or other forms of liver fibrosis as, to the best of our knowledge, there are no drug therapies on the market. Organ transplantation is a difficult, risky and costly procedure as organ availability is scarce and there is the risk of developing cirrhosis in the transplanted liver from the same disease that damaged the patient's original liver and therefore, there is a great need for other therapeutic options.
The primary focus of the company is to use galectin inhibitors to block galectin-3 and treat organ scarring in the liver. All diseases that affect the liver (viral hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and fatty liver as examples) lead to the development of scaring of the liver. When this scaring becomes advanced, the only therapy available is a liver transplantation. The first indication for our drugs is fatty liver with fibrosis which is estimated to affect between 9 and 15 million people in the US.