At any given time, approximately 123,000 people are on the waiting list to receive an organ in America alone. The wait usually takes several years, partly due to the fact that up to 50% of people who receive organ transplants eventually reject the donated organ and require a second transplant.
This high rejection rate is largely due to the side effects of the powerful medications transplant recipients must take for life, drugs that perform a life-sustaining function but come with a life-threatening risk. A transplant doesn’t last forever. The powerful but toxic immunosuppressive drugs cause certain cancers, hypertension and serious infections. Over time, the immune system can still react against the organ causing it to fail.
TRACT Therapeutics hopes to change the therapeutic approach in transplant medicine by reducing or eliminating the need for immunosuppressive drug therapy with a new approach that could significantly increase the long-term efficacy of the donated organ while dramatically improving the lives of transplant recipients.
The Story Behind TRACT Therapeutics, Inc.
Dr. Joseph Leventhal’s quest began in medical school, where he learned that transplanted organs don’t last forever. For more than 25 years, Dr. Leventhal pursued what he calls “the holy grail” of the organ transplant medicine: a way to influence the body to accept a foreign organ while sparing the recipient years of serious and potentially fatal side effects associated with required anti-rejection drugs. Today, the patient fortunate enough to receive a donated organ will likely require at least one replacement organ in the future.
During his tenure as Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Programs at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Dr. Leventhal conducted groundbreaking research on alternative therapies that could reduce or eliminate the need for lifelong immunosuppressive drug therapy following organ transplantation. Through extensive research, Dr. Leventhal and his colleagues discovered a particular subpopulation of T regulatory cells (known as Tregs) that would suppress immune responses.
A method was developed for isolating and expanding a patient’s own T regulatory immune cells in the laboratory. After a transplant procedure, a patient would be infused with their own immune cells, theoretically, giving their bodies the ability to self-regulate their immune systems after transplant, thereby, drastically reducing or potentially eliminating the need for sub-optimal and expensive immunosuppressive drugs.
Building on the possibilities of Dr. Leventhal’s research, TRACT Therapeutics, Inc. was created to formalize a regulatory pathway and clinical plan, build the infrastructure of an operating company, develop a commercialization plan and deliver this breakthrough therapy to patients. All members of the TRACT Therapeutics team are dedicated to the scientific, medical and commercial success of Dr. Leventhal’s vision to create immune tolerance.
Beyond organ transplantation, TRACT’s T regulatory cell therapy could also be utilized in the treatment of several autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease which affects 20% of the general population, or about 50 million Americans.