Novartis VC fund coleads $17M Series A in inflammatory disease startup

The VC wing of Novartis ($NVS) has joined with Fountain Healthcare Partners to lead a $17 million round in Inflazome, a chronic inflammatory disease startup. Inflazome will use the cash to advance small molecules against the innate immune system receptors known as inflammasomes, targets that have been linked to diseases as diverse as Alzheimer’s and Type 2 diabetes.

Dublin, Ireland-based Inflazome is at an early stage in the drug development process, but its mix of scientific expertise and biotech experience has proven compelling enough to land it the Series A. The science the startup is built on stems from the work of co-founders Matt Cooper and Luke O’Neill, professors who collaborated on inflammasomes while working at universities in Australia and Ireland, respectively.

Cooper and O’Neill, who now serve as CEO and CSO of Inflazome, were among the authors of a paper published in Nature Medicine that described a small molecule inhibitor of the NOD-like receptor family, pyrin domain--containing protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome. The small molecule, MCC950, selectively inhibited the activity of NLRP3, a receptor linked to multiple sclerosis, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's and atherosclerosis.

That work caught the attention of Novartis Venture Fund, which has made a concerted effort to get into inflammasome research.

“We have searched extensively for inhibitors of the inflammasome,” Novartis Venture Fund Managing Director said in a statement. “We are very excited by Inflazome's prospects. The company has outstanding assets, expertise and capabilities.”

Having added TriMod Therapeutics founder and ex-Genentech senior manager Jeremy Skillington to the founding management team and rounded up $17 million, Cooper and O’Neill are now set to see whether they can translate these assets, expertise and capabilities into clinical successes. “

"We plan to take our lead inflammasome inhibitor through to Phase IIa POC clinical trial [using the Series A money],” Skillington told FierceBiotech. “There are a number of indications amenable to treatment which are currently under review.”

Inflazome has been hiring researchers to carry out the preclinical work to support the advance of its pipeline. “Key hires in the preclinical space [are] near completion,” Skillington said.