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Novartis bolsters anti-inflammatory R&D with $1.6bn IFM Tre buy

Acquires its portfolio of NLRP3 targeting drugs

Novartis

Novartis has snapped up an emerging company working on drugs for inflammation, paying $310m upfront for Boston-based IFM Tre in a deal valued at up to $1.6bn.

Boston-based IFM Tre focuses on developing anti-inflammatory drugs that target NLRP3, a multiprotein protein complex known as an ‘inflammasome’ that seems to play a key role in the innate inflammation system which forms a first line of defence against pathogens.

Inflammasomes are an emerging target in the biopharma industry, as in some diseases states their activity seems to run amok. Scientists are working on the premise that inflammasomes can be targeted to dampen down inflammatory responses, without affecting other elements of the immune system.

Novartis is buying into that hope by acquiring IFM Tre’s entire portfolio of NLRP3 inhibitors, including one clinical and two preclinical programmes that it says have the potential to treat “several metabolic, fibrotic, autoimmune, and neurological diseases.”

Heading the pack is IFM-2427, an NLRP3 antagonist that has just started a phase 1 clinical trial in healthy volunteers and has potential in chronic inflammatory disorders, including gout, atherosclerosis and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Following after is a preclinical candidate that is directed at the gastrointestinal tract with potential in inflammatory bowel disease and another that can penetrate the central nervous system that could have a role in neurological conditions with inflammatory symptoms, for example Parkinson’s disease.

IFM Tre isn’t the only company working on inflammasomes, or indeed NLRP3. Last month, Inflazome won a $1m grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) for an imaging approach that will be used to develop NLRP3 drugs for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Inflazome is also developing its small-molecule NLRP3 inhibitors for a broad range of inflammatory conditions.

Meanwhile, NodThera also joined the fray, raising around $40m in a first-round financing last year to advance its work on NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitors.

IFM Tre has only been in existence a few months, coalescing from assets that were left over when Bristol-Myers Squibb acquired IFM Therapeutics for $2.3bn in 2017. BMS’ interest was mainly on IFM’s STING and NLRP3 agonists and their potential in boosting immune responses to tumours.

“IFM Tre's compounds have demonstrated that they can fine-tune the immune system, offering a potentially potent approach for treating a large variety of diseases associated with inflammation,” said Jay Bradner, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.

“We look forward to applying our deep expertise in this field to advancing these medicines through the clinic and to patients who need them.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

1st April 2019

From: Sales

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