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New treatment for osteoarthritis on way

01 May 2014, at 1:00am

THERAPIES used extensively in treating chronic pain in human patients may soon be available for the small animal market, according to one of the speakers in the “exhibitor stream” at the BSAVA congress.

Professor David Gearing, chief scientific officer with the Australian biotechnology firm Nexvet Biopharma, said his company’s monoclonal antibody-based treatment for osteoarthritis could be authorised for use in veterinary patients within the next two years.

Such products have become standard approach to treating arthritis in human patients, with seven of the top 10 selling medicinal products round the world being biological products targeting inflammatory disease.

But humanised monoclonal antibodies are completely ineffective in other species and to date there has been little interest in developing species-specific agents because of the perceived high manufacturing costs and the prospect of significant regulatory hurdles, he explained.

However, the Melbourne-based company has developed technologies that dramatically reduce the costs of producing and purifying products customised for use in canine, feline and equine patients.

This PETisation (parsimonious essential translation) technology has initially been used to target nerve growth factor, a cytokine produced in white blood cells which both modulates inflammatory pain and stimulates growth of nerve cells in affected joints.


Monoclonal antibody-based therapies offer several advantages over small molecule-based treatments in having exceptionally high potency, high specificity and low toxicity.

The molecule is also cleared very slowly from the body with a nine-day half-life. So it is expected that treatments could be given as intravenous injections four to six weeks apart.

Prof. Gearing described the results of clinical trials in experimentally- induced and naturally-occurring osteoarthritis in dogs in independent studies conducted by leading veterinary researchers in Australia and the US. These have demonstrated statistically significant improvements in weight-bearing and standard pain indices with benefits apparent within a day of starting treatment.

He insisted that the likely costs of treatment will be considerably lower than the thousands of pounds per dose when the first human products were introduced.

“Our production methods mean that the yields are significantly higher and the costs therefore much lower.

“The aim is to have a product that is competitive in price terms with conventional therapies. There is no point in creating a product that has such exorbitant costs that it can only rarely be used,” he said. 

The professor believes that a cost- effective treatment for osteoarthritis would be just the beginning in the search for veterinary applications for monoclonal antibody therapies.

The company is also investigating the potential value of this form of treatment in veterinary oncology. Nexvet staff are in regular contact with the US Department of Agriculture which regulates the use of veterinary drugs across the Atlantic and have been assured that there the procedure for fast-tracking licensing applications under the MUMS (minor use/minor species) regulations will ensure that new products will be made available for use in relatively uncommon conditions.