Ventus Scoops Up $100 Million to Take NLRP3 Inhibitor to the Clinic
With its two proprietary platforms, the Massachusetts-based biotech focuses on drugging inflammasomes and other proteins of the innate immune system. The target of Ventus’ top program has not yet been revealed but is anticipated in the clinic by late 2022.
“We have made rapid and substantial progress over the last twelve months, including the emergence of the ReSOLVE™ platform and expansion of our pipeline. Ventus is on an exciting growth trajectory, as we continue to unlock high-value targets that have been elusive in the past and advance our lead products for patients with devastating diseases,” said Marcelo Bigal, CEO of Ventus.
The second program advancing in the Ventus pipeline targets NLRP3, an inflammasome protein complex that is improperly activated in a wide number of diseases. NLRP3 has been grabbing attention from other companies too, like Swiss giant Roche who’s scooped up two different companies, Jecure in 2018 and Inflazome last year, in an effort to drug this particular inflammasome. NodThera secured $55 million in its Series B last summer to advance its inhibitor candidate to the clinic. Novartis and Bristol Myers Squibb also bought their way into the game with acquisitions of NLRP3 inhibitors for cancer and inflammatory diseases, respectively.
“Currently, development-stage NLRP3 inhibitors are derived from MCC950, a compound discovered by Pfizer 20 years ago that, while active on NLRP3, failed in the clinic due to safety issues that are believed to be compound/scaffold based. The current competitor compounds are first-generation NLRP3 inhibitors and they appear to be very similar in structure to each other and to MCC950 and thus lack meaningful differentiation. Importantly, the active forms of these competitor compounds demonstrate no obvious brain penetration levels when dosed in preclinical species,” Bigal said.
Ventus’ platforms identified novel and differentiated NLRP3 inhibitors – one that can enter the brain and one that doesn’t. The small molecule drugs in the works are able to bind to sites invisible to other approaches.
Bigal believes many proteins of the innate immune system are implicated in a range of diseases including lupus, NASH, osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and more. The diverse range of disease makes the biotech a prime candidate to create partnerships with bigger companies focused on these diseases.
With plans to propel both lead candidates into the clinic late next year, the 39-player team is expected to grow to 55 full-time staffers between its two hubs in Waltham, MA and Montreal.
“From an aspirational perspective, I have been a drug developer for 20 years now. I am a neurologist. What we’re trying to address here is an important thing. Everything that is easy to develop, we have developed already,” Bigal said. “Ventus makes me incredibly proud, because due to the groups we’ve put together, we, for the first time, can see druggable pieces in these very hard-to-drug molecules.”