June 3, 2015- Hebrew University immunologist Professor Ofer Mandelboim won The Hebrew University’s prestigious Kaye Innovation Award for his research underlying BL-9020, for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes.

Professor Mandelboim, The Dr. Edward Crown Professor of General and Tumor Immunology at the Lautenberg Center studied the function of a protein receptor called NKp46 in the development of Type 1 diabetes. Prof. Mandelboim showed that NKp46 present on Natural Killer cells has a critical role in the development of the disease in mice, and that inhibition of the receptor almost entirely prevented the development of diabetes. This groundbreaking research is the basis for BioLineRx’s BL-9020, a novel monoclonal antibody which targets the Natural Killer (NK) receptor NKp46 for the prevention and treatment of Type 1 diabetes. BioLineRx  is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to identifying, in-licensing and developing promising therapeutic candidates.

In January 2014, BioLineRx entered into a collaboration agreement with JHL Biotech for the further development and commercialization of BL-9020 in China and additional Southeast Asia countries. Under the terms of the agreement, BioLineRx retains the development and commercialization rights in the rest of the world.

brunocharbit0001 (6)Dr. Kinneret Savitsky, CEO of BioLineRx, stated, “Type 1 diabetes is a highly prevalent autoimmune disease affecting millions around the world. Currently there is no cure for the disease, and patients with diabetes need to administer insulin on a daily basis throughout their lifetime. Oftentimes, when the disease is diagnosed, patients experience a ‘honeymoon period’ which may last up to a year, during which there are still some insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Inhibiting the innate immune system, which has shown involvement in the destruction of the pancreas, is a novel approach for such treatment. Based on promising pre-clinical results, we have high hopes that BL-9020 may slow down or halt progression of the disease at this stage, which could be a significant step towards curing diabetes.”

BL-9020 is a novel monoclonal antibody treatment designed to prevent immune-mediated destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. It was developed to treat Type 1 diabetes in early stage patients, during what is known as the “honeymoon period,” where the pancreatic beta cells have not been completely destroyed and continue to secrete insulin. BL-9020 targets NKp46, a unique target that is involved in the innate response against the pancreas. Pre-clinical studies in mouse models of Type 1 diabetes suggest that BL-9020 can inhibit beta cell death, thus preventing full maturation of the disease. This effect could significantly delay, and potentially prevent, the need for chronic insulin use by Type 1 diabetes patients, as well as provide a potential benefit in minimizing diabetes-related complications.

About the Kaye Awards

The Kaye Awards have been given annually since 1994. Isaac Kaye from the United Kingdom, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, established the awards to encourage faculty, staff and students of The Hebrew University to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential which will benefit the university and society.