£1m boost for development of new equine tendon treatment

A new treatment developed in Scotland for tendon problems in horses and people has benefited from a £1 million government investment.

It is estimated that tendinopathy affects between 10 and 30% of competitive and working horses. For now, the most common therapeutic option is a long period of box rest that only helps in 50% of cases. In addition to being a significant welfare issue for the horse, equine tendinopathy is a substantial financial and practical burden on the owners.

Causeway Therapeutics, a spinout of the University of Glasgow, develops therapies for tendon injuries and disorders, collectively known as tendinopathies. It has received the funding boost from Mediqventure and the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise.

While working in the laboratory of Professor Iain McInnes at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, Causeway co-founders Dr Derek Gilchrist and Mr Neal Millar discovered that a single microRNA – miR29a – plays a key role in regulating the production of collagens, the proteins that give tendons their strength. Replacement of Type I collagen with Type III collagen is characteristic of tendinopathy; loss of miR29a in human tendons drives an increase in Type III collagen production. Causeway’s lead product, TenoMiR, is a replacement for the natural miR29a that is depleted in tendinopathy.

In humans, tendinopathies are extremely common, accounting for between 30 and 50% of all sporting injuries. About 1 in 10 people will be affected by tendinopathies in their lifetime, usually caused by repetitive strain or major trauma. Treatment for tendinopathies cost Britain’s National Health Service £250 million per year, often with unsatisfactory results for patients. The worldwide market for treatments is estimated at around £3.85 billion.

In addition to developing TenoMiR as a human therapeutic, Causeway is developing an analogous therapy for horses suffering tendinopathy. Initial studies of EquiMiR in horses have shown significantly improved tendon healing when compared to untreated animals.

“We’re delighted that Causeway is receiving the backing of Mediqventures and SIB,” said Gilchrist, co-founder and CEO of Causeway. “Translating our detailed understating of the molecular processes driving tendinopathy into a promising therapy has been a true multidisciplinary collaboration between scientists, surgeons and veterinarians in Glasgow and internationally.”

Neal Millar, co-founder and clinical senior research fellow in orthopaedics at the University of Glasgow, said: “We have applied high-level molecular interrogation to an under investigated yet highly prevalent and burdensome disease process. TenoMiR has the potential to transform the treatment of tendon injuries, getting patients back to normal quicker.”

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