Roche vet Jean-Jacques Garaud woos international believers in his French startup's take on septic shock
When Jean-Jacques Garaud left the top role in research and early development at Roche to build and advise early-stage biotechs in his native Paris, one fledgling quickly drew close to his heart.
The startup, Inotrem, was developing an immunotherapy to treat septic shock. Having trained as a critical care physician before moving to Schering-Plough and then Novartis, Garaud was all too familiar with the dearth of treatments for sepsis, which is deadly even in developed countries, claiming more than a quarter-million deaths in the US each year.
Together with co-founders Sébastien Gibot and Marc Derive (Derive did his PhD at Gibot’s lab and is now Inotrem’s CSO), he swiftly gathered €18 million from French VCs Andera Partners and Sofinnova Partners, as well as the transfer seed fund known as Inserm and Swiss player BioMedInvest. But for the next round of funding, Garaud told Pharma Boardroom earlier this year, he’d be looking to bring in international investors outside of France and Europe.
And bring in international investors he did. Morningside Ventures, which traces its roots to Hong Kong, is leading Inotrem’s €39 million Series B. New York-based Invus also joined the syndicate.
“This financing validates the potential of our technology platform centered on the TREM-1 pathway and of our lead drug candidate for septic shock, nangibotide, which will be entering a large Phase IIb clinical trial later this year,” Garaud said in a statement.
Characterized by dangerously low blood pressure, septic shock is the most severe complication of sepsis, which occurs when the body mounts an overwhelming response to an infection, leading to organ failures. While antibiotics can help tamp down the infection, neither it nor supportive care addresses the underlying shock.
Inotrem’s hypothesis is that by inhibiting TREM-1 — a receptor expressed on myeloid cells — its peptide drug can modulate the immune attack without completely stopping the inflammatory response from clearing harmful bacteria.
The field is not packed, but the biotech is not alone either. Berlin-based Adrenomed is tackling a target called adrenomedullin, while Medicxi-backed UK startup Critical Pressure reckons hitting DDAH1 is the way to go.
With the new funding, Inotrem plans to launch a global Phase IIb trial to test that theory, recruiting 450 patients and testing two doses of nangibotide against standard of care and placebo.
Keeping his pharma connections close, Garaud has also secured a partnership with Roche on a companion diagnostic tool based concentration of TREM-1 in patients.
In addition to septic shock, Inotrem is also developing its TREM-1 drugs in cardiovascular diseases and chronic inflammatory conditions.