Meet the founder: Michal Schwartz

Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of ImmunoBrain Checkpoint.

ImmunoBrain Checkpoint (ImmunoBrain) is a clinical stage biotechnology company transforming the fight against neurodegeneration and aging by targeting the immune system, restoring brain / immune communications, and boosting natural repair mechanisms. ImmunoBrain’s lead product is a proprietary antibody targeting the inhibitory immune checkpoint pathway, PD-1/PD-L1, to treat Alzheimer’s disease. ImmunoBrain’s novel approach for the treatment of neurodegeneration is based on years of pioneering research in the field of Neuroimmunology by the team at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

Professor Michal Swartz is a world-renowned expert in neuroimmunology who pioneered the field of nervous system repair, protection, and maintenance by the immune system. Schwartz is a professor of Neuroimmunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) and a recipient of the Israel Prize. She was the first to suggest that circulating immune cells are essential for supporting life-long functional brain plasticity in health and disease, and should be harnessed to help fighting brain pathologies. These results led to the paradigm-shifting approach of developing an immunotherapy to combat neurodegenerative diseases.

Currently raising?

We are not currently involved in a funding round, but we welcome conversations with investors who are interested in our approach to treating neurodegenerative disease by targeting the immune system.

Major milestones hit & next steps

In the spring of 2023, ImmunoBrain initiated the Phase I clinical study of our lead asset, an anti-PD-L1 monoclonal antibody (IBC-Ab002), engineered based on the desired mechanism of action, whereby it activates the immune system to fight Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The antibody is being tested in AD patients across clinical sites in Israel and the UK. We are excited to announce that we have completed dosing of our first cohort of patients. Our next milestones will be to proceed to the multiple ascending dose protocol with the first dosing level, and to initiate the single ascending dose at the next dosing level. We are looking forward to an initial clinical data analysis of our first three cohorts, as well as a data readout focused on safety, pharmacokinetics, and mechanism of action after all initial doses have been given at all dose levels.

If you could change one thing about the longevity industry, what would it be and why?

I would want it to focus on “rejuvenating” the immune system, as the immune system holds the key to the proper functioning of all bodily tissues. In fact, a paper published in 2022 in Nature (Wang et al.) used our approach to treat AD, for treatment of aging in general, and found reduction of senescent cells, the major source for inflammation, in all tested tissues.

Over several decades of research conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science by my team demonstrated the link between the immune system and the brain. Our hope is that other scientists in the neurodegenerative disease space recognize the mounting body of both preclinical and clinical evidence behind our approach, and that others conduct additional studies to explore these connections between the immune system and the brain. Given the well-documented changes that occur in both the brain and the immune system with aging, this will enable our industry to develop treatments for patients with age-related diseases, which to date have no effective therapies.

Importance of breaking down silos

The need for comprehensive understanding of mechanisms underlying aging in general, in order to develop more effective treatments for age-related diseases.

Why did you start a longevity company?

As pioneers in advocating and substantiating for over two decades that the brain relies on the immune system for its maintenance and repair, and recognizing aging as the primary risk factor for dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease, we have formulated a proposal to help the brain fight these diseases by leveraging the assistance of the immune system. Consequently, understanding the ways in which both the brain depends on the immune system, and how the immune system undergoes changes with disease and age have illuminated our path toward utilizing the immune system as a therapeutic target for addressing neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. This pivotal insight marked the birth of ImmunoBrain.

What is the biggest challenge in your corporate longevity journey?

ImmunoBrain is on a journey to transform the understanding and treatment of neurodegeneration based on its novel scientific understanding and intellectual property. In this journey, we need to educate all stakeholders in many ways: we must introduce our new therapeutic paradigm, the novel target we have chosen to fight AD, the novel antibody we are developing, as well as novel biomarkers of therapeutic efficacy. We need to evangelize patient advocacy groups, clinicians, regulators, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare investors.

Describe your ideal investor

Our ideal investor is involved in patient capital with a strong interest in transformative technologies and the ability to help us reach and educate all stakeholders. So far, most of our conversations and funding have been with entrepreneur-led family offices possessing some healthcare experience.

What is your personal longevity regime?

In one word, a healthy immune system is the key. As a scientist, I cannot overlook the substantial body of research supporting the importance of sport activity, quality sleep and healthy nutrition. Disrupted sleep patterns and chronically high cortisol levels are associated with greater risk for immune exhaustion and emerging of age-related diseases. Therefore, despite all of my numerous responsibilities, I always try to make sure I get sufficient sleep, and exercise. The reward from the scientific endeavors counterbalances the stress.

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