2022-09-30| Licensing

Novo Nordisk Places $700 Million Bet on Ventus’ NLRP3 Inhibitor Program

by Joy Lin
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Novo Nordisk has bought worldwide rights to Ventus Therapeutics’ lead NLRP3 inhibitor program for $70 million upfront and $633 million in milestones, in addition to research and development funding. 

The Danish pharma’s bet on NLRP3, a target for regulating the inflammatory response, is another sign of growing interest in the protein family. 

Related Article: AstraZeneca Blocks Ionis’ Hypercholesterolemia Treatment from Moving into a Phase 3 Study

Terms of the Deal 

According to a press release, the licensing agreement involves Ventus’ portfolio of peripherally-restricted NLRP3 inhibitors, meaning the drugs act outside the central nervous system and cannot penetrate the brain. Novo Nordisk will now develop Ventus’ lead candidate for a range of cardiometabolic conditions, including nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and chronic kidney disease. 

“NLRP3 is a biologically relevant target with significant potential across a number of the liver, kidney, and cardiometabolic diseases,” said Karin Conde-Knape, Senior Vice President of Global Drug Discovery at Novo Nordisk. 

“Ventus has developed a highly differentiated NLRP3 inhibitor program with best-in-class properties and compelling pre-clinical results. We are excited to partner with Ventus to advance this program to provide meaningful clinical benefit to patients within a broad range of diseases,” she said.

Ventus retains the rights to its other NLRP3 inhibitors for certain systemic disorders, including specific inflammatory and respiratory diseases. The Massachusetts, US-based company also keeps worldwide rights to its brain-penetrant NLRP3 inhibitor program. 

Inhibiting the Inflammatory Response

NLPR3 belongs to a family of proteins known as inflammasome receptors which are involved in the formation of inflammasomes, protein complexes that regulate the innate immune system. 

Inflammasomes respond to danger signals such as pathogen invasions, generating IL-1β, IL-18 and causing pyroptosis, a form of lytic programmed cell death. Abnormal activation of inflammasomes has been associated with fibrotic, dermatological, rheumatological, and even neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, preventing the formation of the inflammasome via NLRP3 inhibition has gained some attention in the industry, not least of the fact that inflammasomes sit upstream of the cytokine response. 

Other companies exploring the inflammasome space include Inflazome, InflamaCORE, and Zyversa Therapeutics. Inflammasomes have been the subject of acquisitions, which include Novartis’ buyout of the IFM Tre Subsidiary of IFM Therapeutics, Bristol Myers Squibb’s acquisition of IFM Therapeutics itself, and Roche’s purchase of Jecure Therapeutics. 

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