Novo, Sanofi lead $55M round for inflammation player NodThera

Nodthera CEO Adam Keeney, Ph.D. (Nodthera)

Two years after its last raise, NodThera is setting its sights on the clinic. It’s topping up its coffers with a $55 million round to get its lead asset through phase 1 and into proof-of-concept studies and a second program into the clinic.

The Cambridge, U.K.-based biotech set up shop in 2016 to pursue drugs that block the NLRP3 inflammasome, a protein complex that plays a role in the body’s defense against pathogens. NLRP3 activates an inflammatory response, which releases cytokines to address infection, but it can lead to diseases such as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and diabetes if the process goes awry.

NodThera is working on drugs that address NLRP3 that is “aberrantly activated,” in the words of Alan Watt, Ph.D., the company’s chief scientific officer, raising $40 million in 2018 to pursue its mission.

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Since then, Novo Holdings, Cowen Healthcare and Sanofi Ventures have joined NodThera’s backers in the $55 million series B, and the company has moved its lead program, NT-0167, into phase 1. It’s also discovered compounds that can cross the blood-brain barrier, which could come in handy against diseases like Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, where brain inflammation is involved.

The phase 1 study will turn up a “rich” data set that will open up a “whole host of options,” not just for NT-0167 but for the programs that come after it, NodThera CEO Adam Keeney, Ph.D., told FierceBiotech.

“We’re now working through our plans as to what indications to pursue in phase 2,” he added. “The funding will allow us to get definitive patient data on ‘0167, but then also move a second compound into—and finish—a phase 1 program. We’re developing that compound to be brain-penetrant in the neurodegenerative space.”

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As it advances these two prospects, NodThera is carrying on with its discovery work. It’s looking for compounds that work in the liver and the lung as well as the brain.

Its drug discovery team, led by Watt, is still based in the U.K., along with some chemists and translational scientists. But NodThera has grown across the Atlantic, with a lab in Seattle that does assays and a Boston location Keeney’s building out for clinical development, business development and finance.