NeRRe splits in two, carving out women’s health company

U.K. biotech NeRRe Therapeutics has decided to streamline its R&D portfolio by setting up a brand-new company focusing on women’s health.

The new company, called KaNDy Therapeutics, makes its official debut today and will handle the development of NT-814, one of two phase 2 candidates developed at NeRRe. It is billed as a first-in-class neurokinin-1,3 receptor antagonist with potential to treat postmenopausal vasomotor symptoms (PMVMS) such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances.

That leaves NeRRe—which itself spun out of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in 2012 after the big pharma company decided to withdraw from neuroscience R&D—focusing its activities on its NK-1 antagonist program for neuronal hypersensitivity headed by orvepitant.

The new company’s managing director, Mary Kerr, who moved to NeRRe from GSK, explained the reason for the decision to bisect the business. “It was clear during the series B raise that very few investors had an interest to invest in both sides of the NeRRe portfolio. In fact, one year ago it was difficult to find anyone interested in women’s health at all, but that has changed in recent months,” she told FierceBiotech, pointing to recent developments such as Astellas’ acquisition of PMVMS drug developer Ogeda and IPOs for endometriosis drug developer Myovant and ObsEva, a reproductive health specialist.

The two companies have the same shareholder base for now, but there is now flexibility for this to diversify and extend if necessary, and separating out NT-814 will provide “differential investment, including access to capital and IPO markets.”

NT-814 has the potential to become an important new therapeutic in women’s health, as neurokinin antagonism represents one of the few novel targets in the sector for more than two decades and could become a once-daily, nonhormonal therapy for postmenopausal symptoms.

The drug is heading for a phase 2b trial that will test its ability to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes at four and 12 weeks, with results expected within the next 12 to 18 months. In that time frame, KaNDy may also start initial studies in potential follow-up indications, which could include endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.

“For many women, menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes are debilitating and long-lasting, and can have a major impact on quality of life,” said Professor Richard Anderson, a women’s health specialist at the University of Edinburgh and clinical adviser to KaNDy, in a release. “As a potential once-daily alternative to HRT without the issues surrounding hormone replacement, NT-814 could bring them considerable relief.”

KaNDY is chaired by Iain Dukes, venture partner at OrbiMed, and is based at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst in the U.K.