After selling off NLRP3 agonists for cancer to Bristol-Myers, IFM is focused on candidates for the treatment of neurodegenerative and other diseases.
IFM sold its oncology assets to Bristol-Myers in 2017 for $2.3 billion, but retained the right to pursue the development of NLRP3 inhibitors for the treatment of other diseases. CEO Gary Glick and approximately 35 employees are investigating candidates that, by inhibiting NLRP3, also prevent the downstream development of pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1 and IL-18, which trigger diseases. They are focused on developing drugs that will be delivered to the central nervous system, the gut and the brain.
IFM’s work is based on data generated by scientists Eicke Latz (Institute of Innate Immunity at the University of Bonn) and Luigi Franchi (University of Michigan Medical school and IFM cofounder), who have been investigating the NLRP3 gene, which is also known as CIAS1. The gene provides instructions for making a protein called cryopyrin, a nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat containing (NLR) protein found in the cytoplasm of white blood cells and cartilage-forming cells. NLR proteins help start and regulate the immune system's response. Cryopyrin recognizes bacterial particles, certain chemicals, and compounds released by injured cells and then forms inflammasome structures with other proteins that are involved in the process of inflammation.
The IL-1 inflammatory pathway is the target of some drugs in development, such as Novartis’ heart drug canakinumab. According to Glick, moving upstream of Il-1 is advantageous because it allows the development of different drugs focused on different points in the anatomy that have a similar target and may be safer.
IFM raised $31 million to develop drug candidates that could affect the course of fibrosis and undesired immune responses that are important aspects of many different illnesses, including neurodegenerative diseases. The company now has support from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Atlas Venture, Abingworth and IFM’s management.