A New Hope for MMA and PA


HST5040 is an investigational oral small molecule therapy being developed by HemoShear to reduce the levels of toxins associated with methylmalonic acidemia (MMA) and propionic acidemia (PA), rare genetic disorders caused by the deficiency of certain enzymes required to metabolize amino acids. HST5040 is formulated for convenient daily administration at home as a liquid taken either orally or through a gastrostomy tube. 

The FDA has granted HST5040 Orphan Drug, Fast Track and Rare Pediatric Disease designations for the treatment of MMA and PA. 

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Preclinical Research

Our Chief Medical Officer Gerry Cox, MD, PhD, presents a peer-reviewed poster at the 2021 American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics on the development of HST5040, the preclinical research supporting its potential as a therapy for MMA and PA and the HERO (HElp Reduce Organic Acids) Phase 2 clinical study design. 

Clinical Trial

HemoShear’s HERO (HElp Reduce Organic Acids) Phase 2 clinical study of HST5040 is enrolling at least 12 patients aged 2 and older with MMA or PA at select children’s hospitals in the United States. The study design includes 3 parts – starting with an open label dose escalation period, then progressing to a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover period, followed by an open-label long-term extension. More information can be found on the HERO study website or at clinicaltrials.gov (NCT04732429).



Propionic acidemia (PA) and methylmalonic acidemia (MMA) are rare autosomal recessive disorders of propionyl-CoA (P-CoA) catabolism, caused by a deficiency in the enzymes P-CoA carboxylase and methylmalonyl-CoA (M-CoA) mutase, respectively. PA and MMA are classified as intoxication-type inborn errors of metabolism because the intramitochondrial accumulation of P-CoA, M-CoA, and other metabolites results in secondary inhibition of multiple pathways of intermediary metabolism, leading to organ dysfunction and failure. Herein, we describe the structure–activity relationships of a series of short-chain carboxylic acids which reduce disease-related metabolites in PA and MMA primary hepatocyte disease models. These studies culminated in the identification of 2,2-dimethylbutanoic acid (10, HST5040) as a clinical candidate for the treatment of PA and MMA. Additionally, we describe the in vitro and in vivo absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion profile of HST5040, data from preclinical studies, and the synthesis of the sodium salt of HST5040 for clinical trials.


Propionic Acidemia (PA) and Methylmalonic Acidemia (MMA) are inborn errors of metabolism affecting the catabolism of valineisoleucinemethioninethreonineand odd-chain fatty acids. These are multi-organ disorders caused by the enzymatic deficiency of propionyl-CoA carboxylase (PCC) or methylmalonyl-CoA mutase (MUT), resulting in the accumulation of propionyl-coenzyme A (P-CoA) and methylmalonyl-CoA (M-CoA in MMA only). Primary metabolites of these CoA esters include 2-methylcitric acid (MCA), propionyl-carnitine (C3), and 3-hydroxypropionic acid, which are detectable in both PA and MMA, and methylmalonic acid, which is detectable in MMA patients only (Chapman et al., 2012). We deployed liver cell-based models that utilized PA and MMA patient-derived primary hepatocytes to validate a small molecule therapy for PA and MMA patients. The small molecule, HST5040, resulted in a dose-dependent reduction in the levels of P-CoA, M-CoA (in MMA) and the disease-relevant biomarkers C3, MCA, and methylmalonic acid (in MMA). A putative working model of how HST5040 reduces the P-CoA and its derived metabolites involves the conversion of HST5040 to HST5040-CoA driving the redistribution of free and conjugated CoA pools, resulting in the differential reduction of the aberrantly high P-CoA and M-CoA. The reduction of P-CoA and M-CoA, either by slowing production (due to increased demands on the free CoA (CoASH) pool) or enhancing clearance (to replenish the CoASH pool), results in a net decrease in the CoA-derived metabolites (C3, MCA and MMA (MMA only)). A Phase 2 study in PA and MMA patients will be initiated in the United States.


Propionic acidemia (PA) and methylmalonic acidemia (MMA) are autosomal recessive disorders of propionyl-CoA (P-CoA) catabolism, which are caused by a deficiency in the enzyme propionyl-CoA carboxylase or the enzyme methylmalonyl-CoA (MM-CoA) mutase, respectively. The functional consequence of PA or MMA is the inability to catabolize P-CoA to MM-CoA or MM-CoA to succinyl-CoA, resulting in the accumulation of P-CoA and other metabolic intermediates, such as propionylcarnitine (C3), 3-hydroxypropionic acid, methylcitric acid (MCA), and methylmalonic acid (only in MMA). P-CoA and its metabolic intermediates, at high concentrations found in PA and MMA, inhibit enzymes in the first steps of the urea cycle as well as enzymes in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, causing a reduction in mitochondrial energy production. We previously showed that metabolic defects of PA could be recapitulated using PA patient-derived primary hepatocytes in a novel organotypic system. Here, we sought to investigate whether treatment of normal human primary hepatocytes with propionate would recapitulate some of the biochemical features of PA and MMA in the same platform. We found that high levels of propionate resulted in high levels of intracellular P-CoA in normal hepatocytes. Analysis of TCA cycle intermediates by GC–MS/MS indicated that propionate may inhibit enzymes of the TCA cycle as shown in PA, but is also incorporated in the TCA cycle, which does not occur in PA. To better recapitulate the disease phenotype, we obtained hepatocytes derived from livers of PA and MMA patients. We characterized the PA and MMA donors by measuring key proximal biomarkers, including P-CoA, MM-CoA, as well as clinical biomarkers propionylcarnitine-to-acetylcarnitine ratios (C3/C2), MCA, and methylmalonic acid. Additionally, we used isotopically-labeled amino acids to investigate the contribution of relevant amino acids to production of P-CoA in models of metabolic stability or acute metabolic crisis. As observed clinically, we demonstrated that the isoleucine and valine catabolism pathways are the greatest sources of P-CoA in PA and MMA donor cells and that each donor showed differential sensitivity to isoleucine and valine. We also studied the effects of disodium citrate, an anaplerotic therapy, which resulted in a significant increase in the absolute concentration of TCA cycle intermediates, which is in agreement with the benefit observed clinically. Our human cell-based PA and MMA disease models can inform preclinical drug discovery and development where mouse models of these diseases are inaccurate, particularly in well-described species differences in branched-chain amino acid catabolism.


Background - Propionic acidemia (PA) is a disorder of intermediary metabolism with defects in the alpha or beta subunits of propionyl CoA carboxylase (PCCA and PCCB respectively) enzyme. We previously described a liver culture system that uses liver-derived hemodynamic blood flow and transport parameters to restore and maintain primary human hepatocyte biology and metabolism utilizing physiologically relevant milieu concentrations.

Methods - In this study, primary hepatocytes isolated from the explanted liver of an 8-year-old PA patient were cultured in the liver system for 10 days and evaluated for retention of differentiated polarized morphology. The expression of PCCA and PCCB was assessed at a gene and protein level relative to healthy donor controls. Ammonia and urea levels were measured in the presence and absence of amino acid supplements to assess the metabolic consequences of branched-chain amino acid metabolism in this disease.

Results - Primary hepatocytes from the PA patient maintained a differentiated polarized morphology (peripheral actin staining) over 10 days of culture in the system. We noted lower levels of PCCA and PCCB relative to normal healthy controls at the mRNA and protein level. Supplementation of branched-chain amino acids, isoleucine (5 mM) and valine (5 mM) in the medium, resulted in increased ammonia and decreased urea in the PA patient hepatocyte system, but no such response was seen in healthy hepatocytes or patient-derived fibroblasts.

Conclusions - We demonstrate for the first time the successful culture of PA patient-derived primary hepatocytes in a differentiated state, that stably retain the PCCA and PCCB enzyme defects at a gene and protein level. Phenotypic response of the system to an increased load of branched-chain amino acids, not possible with fibroblasts, underscores the utility of this system in the better understanding of the molecular pathophysiology of PA and examining the effectiveness of potential therapeutic agents in the most relevant tissue.



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