Main research areas

MorphoSys is constantly striving to improve its drug development capabilities, to consolidate its disease expertise and to strengthen the company’s technology suite. The company’s proprietary drug development activities currently focus on cancer, both hematological malignancies and solid tumors, as well as inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Cancer

The oncology market includes a large number of heterogeneous indications demonstrating a wide range of unmet medical needs and incidence rates. Standard treatments for the various forms of cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone treatment. However, new biological products hold the most promise for changing treatment paradigms. Drugs such as therapeutic antibodies allow for highly specific targeting of cancer cells or signaling molecules in order to reduce unwanted side effects.

MorphoSys is currently developing proprietary cancer compounds in clinical trials.

Immuno-oncology: a new paradigm in the fight against cancer

Immuno-oncology is one of the most exciting areas of research in the biopharmaceutical industry. With the development of therapies that modulate the immune system´s natural ability to fight tumors, researchers are striving to reach a major breakthrough that will overcome the shortcomings of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Antibody-based immuno-oncologic therapies are a particularly promising approach with the potential to provide durable anti-tumor effects for a broad range of cancer patients. 

Modern immune therapies seek to enhance the immune response against the tumor and block evasion strategies of cancer cells. Multiple development steps are needed to generate potent anti-tumor immune responses. MorphoSys uses its proprietary Ylanthia antibody library and other technology platforms to generate antibodies that target specific immune checkpoints.

MorphoSys has already worked on a range of immune checkpoint targets, in partnered programs and on its own account, and is actively seeking to further expand this field of research. 

Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases

Both autoimmune and inflammatory diseases arise through uncharacteristic reactions of the human immune system. In autoimmunity, the patient´s immune system is activated against the body´s own proteins. In chronic inflammatory diseases, neutrophils and other leukocytes are constitutively recruited by cytokines and chemokines, leading to tissue damage. Inflammatory disorders include conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease. Around 1% of the global population is thought to be affected by rheumatoid arthritis, which makes it the largest single market in the area of inflammatory diseases. Additionally, certain bone-related indications involve inflammatory processes. Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases represent a major pharmaceutical market with many millions of patients being affected.

Antibodies that target GPCRs

The G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) superfamily is the largest and single most important family of drug targets (~800 members) in the human body. These proteins are active in just about every organ system and present a wide range of opportunities as therapeutic targets in areas including cancer, cardiac dysfunction, diabetes, central nervous system disorders, obesity, inflammation and pain. Over 300 family members are considered as relevant targets for drug discovery. However, due to technical challenges in targeting the very small, partially hidden extracellular protein region which is accessible to antibodies, GPCRs have been largely intractable to therapeutic antibody development so far.

MorphoSys combines its expertise and techniques to drive antibodies to the small extracellular GPCR surface. The Company utilizes Heptares Therapeutics’ unique antigen platform StaR® for the discovery and its proprietary Ylanthia library for the further development of therapeutic antibodies that target GPCRs.

Lanthipeptides

Peptides are an increasingly important class of drug. As natural ligands to many targets, they can combine agonistic or antagonistic activity with low toxicity risk and can be applied to disease targets, where small molecules or antibody-based drugs cannot be used.
Through a technology alliance with Lanthio Pharma, MorphoSys has entered the field of therapeutic peptides some years ago. The novel, modified lanthipeptides make it possible to discover highly target-selective peptides, which only bind and activate one specific target subtype. They are also more stable than linear wild-type peptides making them potent drug candidates against serious diseases such as fibrosis or multiple sclerosis.