Cambridge, U.K.-based Nodthera raised £28 million ($40 million) in series A funding to bring an NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor through to proof of concept in humans. The company is looking to develop new treatments for diseases characterized by chronic inflammation.
NLRP3 inflammasomes are a part of the body’s normal defense mechanism against infection and trauma, said Alan Watt, Nodthera’s chief scientific officer and acting CEO. These multiprotein complexes are responsible for initiating the inflammatory response, which releases interleukins to resolve infection.
Watt, a biopharma veteran who’s worked at Merck, GlaxoSmithKline and Bicycle Therapeutics, first worked on NLRP3 during his time at GSK: “We didn't manage to find a lead then when I first looked at it a decade ago,” he said. “It’s become an attractive target over the intervening period.”
What Nodthera and other players have noticed, Watt said, is that NLRP3 can be “aberrantly activated,” not just by microbes, but also by what the company calls “danger signals”—such as cholesterol crystals that can lead to atherosclerosis—that can lead to low-grade chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation is present in a range of diseases, from diabetes and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) to neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers.
One advantage of blocking NLRP3 over simply using an immunosuppressant is that it targets this inflammatory response while leaving the rest of the immune system to operate as normal.
“We believe this approach has the potential to transform the treatment of patients suffering from these diseases where there are limited or no treatment options available,” Watt said in the statement.
Nodthera draws its funding from Epidarex Capital, F-Prime, Sofinnova Partners and 5AM Ventures. It has not identified specific indications it wants to go after, instead looking at the field more broadly.
“We aim to take our first molecule as far as phase 2a in humans and bring a portfolio of additional molecules behind that,” Watt said. The plan is to have a leading indication, followed by a number of other indications that have different characteristics—for example, different molecules may target the blood, the brain, or any number of other organs.
Nodthera counts five employees at launch, but will be looking to grow that to about 12 to 15.
“We are mostly a virtual business, but we are actively seeking high-quality individuals right now to fulfill some of these positions, in particular, the CEO,” Watt said.