The big CANTOS study may not have produced the blockbuster approval that Novartis had been promising in cardio, but its success in the IL-1 beta pathway has helped inspire a slate of startups that are moving upstream to what’s become a hot field in NLRP3 inhibition.
Today’s story centers on Inflazome, which describes itself as one of the pioneers in NLRP3. The biotech has raised $46 million for its Series B round to shift out of preclinical work and head straight into the clinic next year, with plans to tee up a safety study followed by a foray into an orphan CNS condition.
Based in Dublin and Cambridge, UK, where its research is centered, the biotech also has an office in Australia to allow for a quick shift to human trials, where the government offers a hefty 43% tax credit for the drug trials undertaken Down Under.
Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Novartis and others may have failed at their early attempts in this arena, says CEO Matthew Cooper, but they have all helped pave the way for Inflazome. Cooper co-founded the company with Trinity College’s Luke O’Neill. They now have a dozen staffers, with plans to beef up the team now that the B round has arrived.
The biotech’s early work has involved hundreds of compounds and 29 patents centered around NLRP3, an inflammazome that appears to play a key role in pushing inflammation in a long roster of ailments big and small.
Their goal has been to identify the best drug candidate depending on the target, which starts with cryopyrin-associated periodic syndrome, an orphan indication involving hyper-inflammation that can lead to mental retardation. That gives them a chance to provide a proof-of-concept display of the tech with a small study before they branch out into bigger diseases.
The biotech doesn’t go out of its way to attract attention. “We’re very European in that way,” says Cooper, a professor at the University of Queensland who I queried after the release hit the wire.
At the same time, he’s clearly pumped and believes that Inflazome is on a great journey, starting with CNS and the possibility of going into some tough conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, where tamping down on longterm inflammation could pay solid benefits over time.
That will require compounds that can get into the brain to do their job. But outside the brain there are plenty of additional targets, running a gamut ranging from gout to arthritis to cardio.
Like his biotech rivals — a group that includes NodThera and IFM — Cooper is pursuing the belief that rather that tackling the entire IL-1 beta pathway, it’s possible to much more safely single out the “lone wolf” that they believe is the prime suspect for the laundry list of conditions it may trigger.
Interestingly, there’s also been early work done to link the ketogenic diet to hitting NLRP3, which may explain why the ultra low carb diet could work in a range of cases for childhood epilepsy, as practiced at Johns Hopkins for decades. Cooper, though, says it’s going to take something with real therapeutic strength to have an impact on the diseases they’re after, and keto may not qualify on that level.
Forbion led the round, with Longitude Capital and founding investors Novartis Venture Fund and Fountain Healthcare Partners also participating.
Image: Matthew Cooper. UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND
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