For Gary Glick and his crew at IFM, life after spinning out their oncology assets to Bristol-Myers Squibb has involved constant discussions about which targets — out of all the ideas on their drawing board — to go after in the adaptive immune system. Their next big question? When they should launch a new subsidiary to pursue the drugs, or how many of these units to form.
Those discussions led to IFM Tre, which got started last July with $31 million to tackle a troika of NLRP3 targets. With one of those programs on the cusp of entering the clinic, Glick is now ready announce their next venture: IFM Due (pronounced “du-way,” Italian for “two”), committed to the cGAS-STING pathway.
Comprising cyclic GMP-AMP synthase and the more well-known stimulator of interferon genes, the cGAS-STING pathway, when aberrantly activated, is tied to excess production of inflammatory cytokines that underlies both rare, genetic diseases like Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS), STING-associated vasculopathy with onset in infancy (SAVI) and common diseases like NASH, Parkinson’s and even senescence, the company said.
Details are scant on the two preclinical asset currently in the pipeline, which Glick divulged are currently in the lead optimization stage.
While acknowledging that large biopharma companies have been interested in the pathway (Eli Lilly $LLY and Aduro $ADRO, for instance, have a research collaboration in place, although Aduro ran into repeated setbacks in cancer), he held back on the specifics of their technology, choosing instead to highlight the understanding, reagents and animal models brought to the table by founding scientist Andrea Ablasser of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.
The appointment of Ablasser, who was introduced to the team by IFM co-founder Eicke Latz, reflects the company’s approach of marrying academic scientists’ insights with their drug discovery capabilities, Glick said. At its core, IFM’s 35-member team hasn’t grown since the last subsidiary was created; scientists are simply moving around new projects as their skills as needed.
“The only thing that sits in IFM Due is the IP related to the projects,” he told me, with “half a dozen” R&D staffers currently working on cGAS-STING together with external help.
The flexibility allows IFM to do right by each set of assets — six other inflammasomes are being considered as new targets. But don’t expect a Roivant-style mushrooming of new companies.
“My sense is it’s not gonna look too different than having two, maybe three subsidiaries running at a time,” Glick says. “I’m more of (the opinion) fewer and higher quality is better than larger and more diffused and (…) little bit less control.”
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