Novo Nordisk met on Thursday a licensing deal with Ventus Therapeutics valued at up to $700 million to develop and commercialize peripherally restricted NLRP3 inhibitors.
Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk A/S will combine its expertise in cardiometabolic diseases with Ventus’ lead NLRP3 inhibitor program, VENT-01, to target a broad spectrum of diseases. Diseases the company plans to address include nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and chronic kidney disease.
Under the terms of the agreement, Novo Nordisk will make an upfront payment to Ventus of US$70 million. Ventus is eligible to receive up to an additional $633 million in potential clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones. If a therapeutic from the collaboration makes it to the commercial market, Ventus is entitled to tiered royalties.
Massachusetts-based Ventus reserves the right to develop NLRP3 inhibitors for certain systemic diseases, including specific inflammatory and respiratory diseases.
Ventus will also retain rights to its proprietary brain penetrating NLRP3 inhibitor program. This compound, VENT-02, is expected to enter the clinic in 2023, with an initial focus on epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.
“The collaboration validates the company’s structural biology capabilities that enable the discovery and development of ‘highly differentiated molecules with novel chemical structures,'” said Marcelo Bigal, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ventus bioroom Thursday morning.
Bigal also noted that VENT-01 is expected to hit the clinic next year.
In addition to VENT-02, the Company has a third candidate targeting cGAS, a key regulator of the cGAS/Stimulator of Interferon Genes (STING) pathway. A fourth candidate is not known. Both facilities are expected to enter human testing within the following year.
NLRP3 (NLR Pyrin Domain-Containing 3) is a key mediator of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1b and IL-18. It is used in diseases where inflammation is the determining factor in the pathology.
Activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome in the body is implicated in many diseases caused by chronic, uncontrolled inflammation. An overactive NLRP3 inflammasome is associated with systemic conditions including fibrotic, dermatological, and rheumatological diseases. It also plays a role in neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, Ventus noted in the announcement. Targeting NLRP3 can suppress an overactive immune response.
Bigal called NLRP3 an exciting area because of the complex biology and the wide range of problems caused by overactivation of the body’s immune response.
In recent years, NLRP3 research has attracted the attention of several companies.
2020 Roche snapped away Ireland-based company Inflamazome and its NLRP3 program. Earlier this month Nodthera Limited announced positive early-stage pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic data from two clinical programs, NT-0796 and NT-0249. And earlier this year, California-based NodThera announced it developed a family of NLRP3 inhibitors that represent potential therapeutics for inflammatory and age-related diseases.
Karen Conde-Knape, senior vice president of global drug discovery at Novo Nordisk, said NLRP3 is a biologically relevant target. The company found that it has significant potential in treating liver, kidney and cardiometabolic diseases. Conde-Knape promoted the Ventus program and said the company’s differentiated NLRP3 inhibitor program has best-in-class properties and has demonstrated compelling pre-clinical results.
The license agreement is a significant financial boost for Ventus. Earlier this year, the company $140 million secured in a Series C funding round. That round came less than a year after Ventus raised $100 million in Series B funding round.
Funds from the Novo-Nordisk deal, along with previous increases, are expected to fund the company and its exploration programs through 2025. Bigal said the agreement gives Ventus “the peace of mind” of not having to go public and file for an IPO.