Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) not only are specialized in their capacity to secrete large amounts of type I interferon (IFN) but also serve to enable both innate and adaptive immune responses through expression of additional proinflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and costimulatory molecules. Persistent activation of pDCs has been demonstrated in a number of autoimmune diseases. To evaluate the potential benefit of depleting pDCs in autoimmunity, a monoclonal antibody targeting the pDC-specific marker immunoglobulin-like transcript 7 was generated. This antibody, known as VIB7734, which was engineered for enhanced effector function, mediated rapid and potent depletion of pDCs through antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity. In cynomolgus monkeys, treatment with VIB7734 reduced pDCs in blood below the lower limit of normal by day 1 after the first dose.
In two phase 1 studies in patients with autoimmune diseases, VIB7734 demonstrated an acceptable safety profile, comparable to that of placebo. In individuals with cutaneous lupus, VIB7734 profoundly reduced both circulating and tissue-resident pDCs, with a 97.6% median reduction in skin pDCs at study day 85 in VIB7734-treated participants. Reductions in pDCs in the skin correlated with a decrease in local type I IFN activity as well as improvements in clinical disease activity.
Biomarker analysis suggests that responsiveness to pDC depletion therapy may be greater among individuals with high baseline type I IFN activity, supporting a central role for pDCs in type I IFN production in autoimmunity and further development of VIB7734 in IFN-associated diseases