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J Transl Med. 2013 Mar 14;11:65. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-11-65.

pSTAT3: a target biomarker to study the pharmacology of the anti-IL-21R antibody ATR-107 in human whole blood.

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Precision Medicine, Pfizer BioTx Clinical R&D, 200 Cambridge Park Drive, Cambridge, MA 02140, USA.



IL-21 has been shown to play an important role in autoimmune diseases. ATR-107 is an antibody which directly targets the IL-21 receptor (IL-21R). To aid the clinical development of ATR-107, there is a need for understanding the mechanism of action (MOA) of this antibody when assessing target engagement in human subjects.


To determine ATR-107 biological activity and potency in human blood, its inhibitory function against IL-21 induced STAT3 phosphorylation in human peripheral T and B cells was measured.


The data show that IL-21 induces STAT3 phosphorylation in a concentration-dependent manner, consistent with its migration to the nuclear. Using a flow cytometry based functional whole blood assay, ATR-107 is demonstrated to be a potent IL-21 pathway inhibitor. It competes with IL-21 for receptor binding in a competitive manner, but once it binds to the receptor it behaves like a non-competitive inhibitor, most probably due to the long observed k(off). The concentration-dependent inhibition observed with ATR-107 correlates inversely with the levels of receptor occupancy, both in ex vivo whole blood assays and directly in human blood when ATR-107 was given to healthy volunteers.


IL-21 induced phosphorylation of STAT3 in T and B cells can be used as a biomarker to evaluate the target engagement of ATR-107 in human whole blood. The antibody behaves like a potent non-competitive inhibitor blocking IL-21 induced STAT3 phosphorylation for a long period of time. These results may help with the translation of preclinical information and dose selection towards ATR-107 clinical efficacy.

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