Hubert Hakbae Choi, CEO
The market for cell and gene therapy is growing at an exponential rate, presenting a plethora of opportunities to develop and launch innovative products. Cell and gene therapies are the rising therapies of interest, which can deliver solutions in the future to the currently incurable diseases, many of which are keenly related to aging. However, when it comes to aging, the human body has an ability to modulate the degeneration of connective tissues by itself. Knocking on this secret of nature, HaplnScience, a Korean biopharma company, has made a breakthrough innovation in this realm. The company has discovered that HAPLN1 (Hyaluronan and Proteoglycan Link Protein 1), an endogenous human protein, plays a key role in regenerating connective tissues and maintaining homeostasis in the human body. In the same vein, HaplnScience, under the joint leadership of Mr. Hubert Choi and Prof. Dae Kyong Kim, CEO and CSO respectively, is on a mission to contribute to the aged people’s health and happiness through the development of breakthrough anti-aging therapies against tissue degeneration. Prof. Kim has devoted himself to the aging and regeneration research throughout his career and led HaplnScience’s technology for more than ten years.
HaplnScience’s anti-aging research was invigorated with parabiosis studies (led by Prof. Kim’s team in 2013) between young and old mice followed by aptamer-based proteomic analysis, whereby HAPLN1 was found to have a critical role in regenerating connective tissues that are degenerated with aging.
This formed the very foundation of HaplnScience. Following this, HaplnScience has successfully developed the large-scale manufacturing process of recombinant human HAPLN1 (rhHAPLN1) and has secured preliminary but meaningful animal efficacy and safety data on rhHAPLN1 for curing diseases related to connective tissue degeneration, such as OA (Osteoarthritis), COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), skin aging, and hair loss. Choi remarks, “The regeneration of connective tissues induces normalization of the connective tissues from the disease status. Our technology has been demonstrated to show a distinct and rapid regeneration of connective tissue in small and large animal models. Besides, we have strong efficacy profile and market potential as a first-in-class technology targeting highly unmet medical needs as well as excellent safety expectations as an endogenous human protein.”
Since its inception in late 2018, HaplnScience has successfully completed series A round of funding in July, 2019 and now have 22 employees including 16 in R&D, efficiently focusing on research and preclinical development of rhHAPLN1 not only through open innovation but also through close consultation with the scientific advisory board from related industry and academia. It has already secured four early-stage assets, two in IND-enabling preclinical studies for OA, COPD and two in preclinical PoC studies for skin aging and alopecia, respectively. Furthermore, it has successfully managed the CMC development for rhHAPLN1 to set up its massive production process for commercial use. HaplnScience’s lead project for OA (HS-101), an intra-articular injection of rhHAPLN1, is believed to be safe as an endogenous human protein and effective in cartilage regeneration as well as symptom release, supporting it as a promising candidate for DMOAD (Disease Modifying OA Drug).
At the moment, HaplnScience is putting its utmost development efforts to bring HS-101 onto the IND-enabling stage for the US PI trial by late 2021, which includes preclinical studies and CMC development. As Choi mentions, no one can avoid aging, and as such, rejuvenation might be the most aspiring wish of mankind. “HaplnScience is now offering a key to open one of the secret doors of aging, we believe,” he adds. “Our client (a prospect licensing partner) will be able to provide new solutions, for the health of aged people, which make aged people healthier and happier, and eventually change their lives.” HaplnScience is also seeking global partners with synergistic capabilities that can help create value for its strategic pipeline and accelerate its mission to address critical unmet needs in degenerative diseases worldwide, starting from its first project, HS-101 late this year.