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Houston neurodegenerative company expands research collaboration with Houston Methodist

Coya Therapeutics announced an expanded research collaboration with the Houston Methodist Research Institute, as well as funding from the Johnson Center. Photo via

A clinical-stage Houston biotech company has expanded its collaboration with Houston Methodist Research Institute, or HMRI.

Coya Therapeutics is already sufficiently established to be publicly traded since late 2022, but there’s always room to grow. With the help of a new sponsored research agreement, Coya will work on multiple initiatives. Coya is led by co-founder and CEO Howard Berman, who was inspired by his father’s dementia diagnosis.

"I was interested in what I could do for my dad," Berman said on the Houston Innovators Podcast, explaining that he met with renowned Houston Methodist researcher and neurologist, Dr. Stanley Appel, who showed him that he was not only working on treatments that could help Berman’s now-deceased father, but that he’d been able to stop the progression of ALS.

The treatments that Coya is developing are targeted at using regulatory T cells (Tregs) to fight both system inflammation and neuroinflammation. That means that maladies in their sights include neurodegenerative, metabolic, and autoimmune diseases, all of which may be caused by dysfunctional Tregs. Specifically, those might include currently hard-to-fight battles like ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.

With the expanded partnership, "the development and production of exosomes from patients’ regulatory T cells will be funded by the Johnson Center for Cellular Therapeutics with participation of the SRA," according to a news release.

Coya’s therapeutic platforms include Treg-enhancing biologics, Treg-derived exosomes, and autologous Treg cell therapy. The new joint effort with HMRI will focus primarily on advancing the exosome technology in the direction of a first-in-human clinical study that will explore novel, synergistic drug combinations with one of Coya's lead candidates, COYA 301. Biologic combinations form the basis of Coya’s approach in addressing the complex pathophysiology of diseases, but they also create future opportunities for strategic collaborations.

COYA 301 is the company’s proprietary investigational low-dose interleukin-2 (IL-2). It’s designed to enhance the anti-inflammatory function of Tregs and is administered subcutaneously.

Hopefully, it will follow the success of COYA 302, which is not yet approved by the FDA or any other agency, but is well on its way, thanks to results from a proof-of-concept, open-label clinical study that evaluated commercially available LD IL-2 and CTLA-4 Ig in a small cohort of patients with ALS, conducted at the HMRI. During the 48-week treatment period, patients tolerated the treatment well and showed significant amelioration in the progression of the disease.

As Coya advances its therapies, ALS and other neurodegenerative ailments could one day be far less doom-filled diagnoses.

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