Inflammation: A Hot Space Gets Complicated
This article was originally published in Start Up
The inflammatory cascade linked to autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, ankylosing spondylitis, and transplant rejection causes heat. It also sparks biotech dealmaking. Lots of it and at high premiums for even midstage licenses. Even as the biodollars grow, the expansion of therapeutics and maturing of the marketplace could lead to new complexities that predict both opportunity and risk for emerging companies.
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Kineta Inc. is working an array of novel Kv1.3 potassium channel blockers derived from the venom of the Caribbean sea anemone. They are designed to suppress activation of effector memory T-cells, which are mediators of inflammation and tissue damage in multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes mellitus and other autoimmune diseases. Kineta's studies indicate that the company's lead compound appears to inhibit only the effector memory T-cells and leave other immune functions unperturbed.
Lycera Corp. develops small-molecule immunomodulators. Its lead benzodiazapene-based compounds have shown efficacy in animal models of lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and transplant rejection. Lycera also recently acquired a program targeting the TH17 pathway, which controls production of IL-17, a pro-inflammatory cytokine increasingly considered critical to inflammation and autoimmune disease.
CellAct Pharma GMBH is developing drug candidates for cancer and immune-modulated inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease and transplant rejection. Its lead compound targets topoisomerases and is in clinical Phase I study for the treatment of cancer. The company is also developing antibodies against surface molecules in lymphocytes to treat inflammation.