A new class of anti-inflammatory could take the STING out of disease

A naturally occurring molecule found in soy products could hold the clue to a new class of potent anti-inflammatory drugs, targeting diseases ranging from heart conditions to COVID-19.

Inflammation is a leading cause of many diseases – and half of all deaths – but current anti-inflammatory drugs have harmful side effects.

Now Hudson Institute of Medical Research has uncovered the secrets of a natural molecule, found in soy products, that could be the key to a new, safer class of treatments, offering relief to millions of people suffering from diseases including

Associate Professor Michael Gantier's discovered a soy-based anti-inflammatory could hold the clue to a new drugs targeting diseases from heart conditions to COVID-19.
Associate Professor Michael Gantier

At a glance

  • The molecule Genistein is found in soy products
  • It’s already used to treat osteoporosis
  • Hudson researchers have uncovered the key to its anti-inflammatory properties
  • It has the potential to treat numerous illnesses and create vaccines with fewer side-effects
  • Work is now under way with Noxopharm on a new class of drug using a related compound

Soy anti-inflammatory effects

Associate Professor Michael Gantier, whose work has recently been published in the journal mBio, says this soy molecule is already used to help limit osteoporosis, but we have now found a mechanism explaining its broad anti-inflammatory effects.

“Genistein is known to have many beneficial therapeutic properties including protection against osteoporosis, reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, alleviation of postmenopausal symptoms and anti-cancer properties,” A/Prof Gantier says.

“As such, populations which rely on high levels of soy and fermented soy bean products are associated with a lower incidence of all these diseases.

“The problem is, until now we did not fully understand how Genistein provided this protection.”

A Prof Gantier and his team have now discovered that Genistein inhibits an inflammatory pathway at the root cause of many diseases: the STING pathway.

The STING pathway is activated in organs that are damaged, triggering potent hormone-like molecules of the immune system. For example, STING has recently been found to be a key driver of disease in severe COVID-19 patients.

Potent, yet safe anti-inflammatory compounds

“Our team’s findings illustrate that molecules of this family could be used to develop potent, yet safe anti-inflammatory compounds,” says A Prof Gantier.

Hudson Institute is now using knowledge of the anti-inflammatory effect of this naturally occurring molecule found in soy products in collaboration with Biotech company Noxopharm and its chemists with unique expertise in Genistein-like molecules.

This has led to the discovery that Idronoxil, a synthetic compound closely related to Genistein, which is more than 10 times more potent that Genistein at blocking the STING pathway.

In a pre-print study, Hudson Institute’s team, in collaboration with Monash University, University of Technology Sydney and Noxopharm, demonstrated that Idronoxil was protective against severe COVID-19 inflammation in a pre-clinical model of the disease.

MORE | A/Prof Michael Gantier’s research

Collaborators | Monash University

Journal information | Gantier, M P et al. Genistein Targets STING-Driven Antiviral Responses. Molecular and Cellular Biology, 4 August 2022, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1128/mbio.02064-22

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