Levels of the novel cytokine ‘Light’ were highly correlated with disease severity and mortality in a study of biomarkers for covid-19 acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The biomarker study was conducted using the serum samples of 47 hospitalized covid-19 patients and 30 healthy controls from Hackensack Meridian Health Network.
In April 2020, approximately 1,500 people in the United States died each day from covid-19. The viral infection triggers a hyperactive immune response leading to cytokine storm and ARDS, which is a leading cause of death among patients who die of covid-19.

Although the hyperinflammatory process is poorly understood, data from the biomarker study implicates the inflammatory cytokine ‘Light’ as a potential key driver of cytokine storm leading to ARDS and death. The name Light is derived from a descriptor of the cytokine: ‘lymphotoxin, exhibits inducible expression and competes with HSV glycoprotein D for binding to herpesvirus entry mediator, a receptor expressed on T lymphocytes.’

In the study, Light levels were significantly elevated in the serum of hospitalized patients with covid-19 versus healthy controls (p value p = 0.02).

“These data are compelling and demonstrate that the inflammatory cytokine Light may play a key role in the cytokine storm associated with covid-19 ARDS that leads to increased morbidity and mortality,” says David Perlin, PhD, senior vice president and chief scientific officer of the center for discovery and innovation, and professor of medical sciences at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University. “Reducing Light levels might be a key to dampening the cytokine storm in these patients, preventing the need for ventilator support and reducing mortality.”

Myriad RBM, a subsidiary of Myriad Genetics, Salt Lake City, in collaboration with Cerecor, Rockville, Md, has developed an ultrasensitive assay for the detection of free Light. The assay is validated for serum or plasma samples and has sufficient sensitivity to reliably measure Light from normal and disease subjects.

Cerecor holds an open investigational new drug application with FDA for CERC-002, a fully human monoclonal antibody with neutralizing action against Light. The drug had been under study for treatment of children with pediatric Crohn’s disease, and now Cerecor has received FDA clearance to proceed with a proof-of-concept clinical trial of CERC-002 in patients with covid-19 cytokine storm-induced ARDS.

“As a company, we recognized the impact of cytokine storm-induced ARDS and the need for treatment options for patients in this area of high unmet need,” says Garry Neil, MD, chief scientific officer for Cerecor. “We remain focused on the CERC-002 clinical program and rapidly moving it forward for the treatment of cytokine storm-induced ARDS.”

For more information, visit Cerecor and Myriad Genetics.