The Liver Failure Group, at the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health, UCL and the UCLB spinout, Yaqrit Limited, a UK company specialising in interventions in liver disease, is the lead company in a UCL-led consortium that has won €6m grant award from the European Union to develop a new treatment for liver disease.
Yaqrit is the pioneer UK company developing new treatments in liver disease, one of the top five causes of mortality. Deaths related to liver disease worldwide have almost doubled over the last 20 years to more than one million per year, in contrast to other major diseases such as cancers and heart disease where death rates are stable or declining. In the UK, the British Liver Trust has recently estimated that the annual cost to the National Health Service for treatment of liver disease is expected soon to top £1bn.
“This grant award will enable us to take this breakthrough technology into human clinical trials,” said Professor Rajiv Jalan, from UCL’s Royal Free Medical School who leads the academic team that developed Yaq-001, an engineered carbon that removes toxins that damage the liver and other organs.
“As well as preventing the complications of cirrhosis, Yaq-001 has the potential to be effective in the treatment of millions of chronic liver disease patients around the world with alcoholic liver disease and those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” said Prof Jalan, who also founded Yaqrit Ltd to bring Yaq-001 and other inventions to the market.
“This award illustrates the world-leading status of Prof Jalan and his team at UCL, said Daniel Green, Yaqrit’s CEO. “Our plan to develop Yaq-001 beat 97% of rival proposals to win this grant support”.
Yaq-001 is an engineered carbon that selectively removes toxins – largely bacterial products and inflammatory molecules – without interacting with the human body. In liver disease, these toxic products leak out of the gut to the liver where they damage liver tissues. Eventually, the liver fails and these products damage other organs such as the brain (hepatic encephalopathy) and kidneys (hepatorenal syndrome).
The EC2020-funded program will progress Yaq-001 through human clinical trials in both fatty liver disease and alcoholic cirrhosis. As a non-digested material Yaq-001 is likely to be classified as a medical device.
Yaqrit, in collaboration with UCL Business, Mast Carbon International Limited, the University of Brighton and clinical development partners in several European liver centres of excellence, affiliated to the CLIF-Consortium, plans to bring Yaq-001 to liver disease patients within four years.
Yaqrit Limited is a UK-based company specialising in interventions in liver disease based on 20 years of research and development at UCL.
UCL Business PLC (UCLB) is a leading technology transfer company that supports and commercialises research and innovations arising from UCL, one of the UK’s top research-led universities. UCLB has a successful track record and a strong reputation for identifying and protecting promising new technologies and innovations from UCL academics. UCLB has a strong track record in commercialising medical technologies and provides technology transfer services to UCL’s associated hospitals; University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Free London Hospital. It invests directly in development projects to maximise the potential of the research and manages the commercialisation process of technologies from laboratory to market.