GSK spinout bags £23M to take NK antagonists into phase 2

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NeRRe has raised £23 million to generate clinical data on its NK antagonists.

NeRRe Therapeutics has raised £23 million ($28 million) in a Series B backed by new investors Fountain Healthcare Partners, Forbion Capital Partners and OrbiMed. The GlaxoSmithKline spinout will use the money to take two neurokinin receptor antagonists to phase 2 data readouts.

Stevenage, U.K.-based NeRRe is poised to advance both candidates this year. Orvepitant, an oral NK-1 antagonist, is set to move into phase 2 in chronic refractory cough. And the second asset, dual NK-1,3 antagonist NT-814, is due to deliver data from an ongoing phase 1b/2a trial in women with postmenopausal vasomotor symptoms.

Fountain, the lead on the Series B, Forbion and OrbiMed, the co-leads, are stumping up the bulk of the cash needed to take the assets through to the data drops. Advent Life Sciences and Novo A/S, which participated in NeRRe’s £11.5 million Series A in 2012, also contributed to the latest round.

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The investors were attracted by the combination of a pipeline targeted at common, chronic and debilitating conditions, and a management team with the credentials to suggest it can execute the development strategy. COO Mike Trower cofounded the biotech after seeing the potential of GSK’s NK portfolio during his time as a VP at the Big Pharma. Trower was joined by fellow GSK alum Mary Kerr in 2015. Kerr swapped a SVP position at GSK for the chance to lead NeRRe.

Since Kerr took the helm, NeRRe has settled on chronic refractory cough as the lead indication for orvepitant. GSK trialled orvepitant in major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, but NeRRe repositioned the drug once it acquired the program.

Initially, NeRRe saw orvepitant as a treatment for itching associated with epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor anticancer therapies. A phase 2 study in this indication was NeRRe’s first clinical trial, but the company has since repositioned the drug once again. This time, NeRRe thinks it is on the right track—and has persuaded investors it is too.

“We believe that we've identified the best indications for both assets,” Kerr said.

For NT-814, the indication being pursued is postmenopausal vasomotor symptoms, a condition that fits squarely with Kerr’s desire for NeRRe to go after common, chronic and debilitating conditions.

“Postmenopausal vasomotor symptoms [is] as common as you get, it's as chronic because it lasts up to 10 years and it's highly debilitating. And there hasn't been a new medicine, new target in that field since HRT was discredited way back in 2002,” Kerr said. "There's really cutting-edge science that indicates that neurokinin b ... is an obligate modulator of women's health. That's very new science."

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