Introduction: Blisibimod is a potent B cell-activating factor (BAFF) antagonist that binds to both cell membrane-expressed and soluble BAFF. The goal of these first-in-human studies was to characterize the safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles of blisibimod in subjects with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: SLE subjects with mild disease that was stable/inactive at baseline received either a single dose of blisibimod (0.1, 0.3, 1, or 3 mg/kg subcutaneous [SC] or 1, 3, or 6 mg/kg intravenous [IV]) or placebo (phase 1a; N = 54), or four weekly doses of blisibimod (0.3, 1, or 3 mg/kg SC or 6 mg/kg IV) or placebo (phase 1b; N = 63). Safety and tolerability measures were collected, and B cell subset measurements and pharmacokinetic analyses were performed.
Results: All subjects (93 % female; mean age 43.7 years) carried the diagnosis of SLE for ≥ 1 year. Single- and multiple-dose treatment with blisibimod produced a decrease in the number of naïve B cells (24-76 %) and a transient relative increase in the memory B cell compartment, with the greatest effect on IgD(-)CD27+; there were no notable changes in T cells or natural killer cells. With time, memory B cells reverted to baseline, leading to a calculated 30 % reduction in total B cells by approximately 160 days after the first dose. In both the single- and multiple-dosing SC cohorts, the pharmacokinetic profile indicated slow absorption, dose-proportional exposure from 0.3 through 3.0 mg/kg SC and 1 through 6 mg/kg IV, linear pharmacokinetics across the dose range of 1.0-6.0 mg/kg, and accumulation ratios ranging from 2.21 to 2.76. The relative increase in memory B cells was not associated with safety signals, and the incidence of adverse events, anti-blisibimod antibodies, and clinical laboratory abnormalities were comparable between blisibimod- and placebo-treated subjects.
Conclusions: Blisibimod changed the constituency of the B cell pool and single and multiple doses of blisibimod exhibited approximate dose-proportional pharmacokinetics across the dose range 1.0-6.0 mg/kg. The safety and tolerability profile of blisibimod in SLE was comparable with that of placebo. These findings support further studies of blisibimod in SLE and other B cell-mediated diseases.