Irritation is sort of a fireplace you simply can’t put out—inflammatory problems are power circumstances in spite of everything. If your own home is ablaze and you realize a gasoline leak is the trigger, dousing the whole dwelling isn’t a focused approach to cease what’s feeding the flames, says John Puisis, co-founder and CEO of Cour Prescribed drugs. He compares his startup’s medication to stopping fireplace on the supply.
“We go into the basement, and we flip off the gas valve fully,” Puisis mentioned.
Cour’s expertise discovered early validation within the arms of a big pharmaceutical firm that picked up one of many biotech’s applications and is at present testing it in mid-stage scientific trials. Now the Chicago-based startup desires to do the identical with its inner pipeline and it has raised $105 million for its plans. In doing so, Cour goals to point out how its method to irritation stands other than the corporate’s immunology friends.
One of many hottest areas of autoimmune illness analysis includes harnessing regulatory T cells, or Tregs. These cells in our our bodies counteract extreme immune responses. A slew of Treg startups—Sonoma Biotherapeutics, Gentibio, Abata Therapeutics, Quell Therapeutics, and Tr1X—are engineering Tregs to deal with a wide range of inflammation-driven circumstances. The jury continues to be out on these experimental cell therapies, which have restricted, if any, scientific knowledge to date. However Puisis, whose expertise contains serving as CEO of autoimmune dysfunction drug developer Tolera Therapeutics, mentioned one downside with Tregs is that immune suppression from these engineered cells can unfold past their targets, resulting in negative effects.
“What’s attention-grabbing with us versus the others—I received’t identify them—they’re doing generalized Tregs, you’ll be able to really get off-target spreading,” Puisis mentioned. “We’re principally telling the physique ‘don’t assault these cells anymore.’”
Cour doesn’t engineer cell therapies. The corporate works with nanoparticles that trick the physique into considering that they’re cells. Inside of those particles is an antigen for a selected autoimmune illness. The composition of all Cour drug candidates is similar, apart from the disease-causing antigen encapsulated inside. Cour’s nanoparticles are about the identical dimension as a cell, which is essential as they flow into all through the physique. Too giant, and so they might trigger clotting issues, Puisis mentioned. Too small, and the immune system received’t acknowledge them.
Recognition is essential to how Cour’s therapies reprogram the immune system, Puisis mentioned. Immune cells that present surveillance for the immune system choose up the nanoparticles and take them to the spleen, which makes white blood cells, and the liver, which performs a task within the adaptive immune response. Launched in these organs with none accompanying inflammatory alerts, the immune system perceives the antigens as belonging to the physique. The physique then produces Tregs that migrate to the positioning of illness to tamp down immune responses to that antigen.
Cour’s expertise relies on a long time of analysis by Stephen Miller, a professor of microbiology-immunology at Northwestern College. The startup’s preliminary focus was celiac illness, an immune response to gluten in sure meals. Preclinical analysis introduced and revealed in 2015 described how nanoparticles could be generated from biocompatible compounds and used to ship an antigen to revive immune tolerance. Quickly after, Takeda Pharmaceutical started a partnership on the Cour celiac illness remedy. Takeda licensed this remedy in 2019 and is now liable for its scientific growth. In the meantime, Ironwood Prescribed drugs holds an choice to license a special Cour remedy for major biliary cholangitis, a uncommon autoimmune illness affecting the bile ducts of the liver.
Puisis isn’t ruling out extra pharma alliances, however for now, he mentioned Cour is specializing in creating its personal pipeline. Cour’s nanoparticles can encapsulate a number of antigens to handle illnesses pushed by a couple of antigen, resembling kind 1 diabetes. That illness and the uncommon muscle dysfunction myasthenia gravis are Cour’s lead indications. Cour chosen these illnesses as a result of the few obtainable therapies for them depart sufferers wanting for one thing higher, Puisis mentioned.
Drug hunters have pursued antibody therapies for each illnesses. The 2022 approval of Provention Bio’s antibody Tzield made that remedy the primary FDA-approved remedy for delaying kind 1 diabetes development. Sanofi acquired Provention for $2.9 billion final yr. In myasthenia gravis, Argenx markets two antibody fragments, Vyvgart and Hytrulo. Final yr, UCB received FDA approval for 2 myasthenia gravis therapies, Rystiggo and Zilbrysq. Whereas Rystiggo is an antibody that works equally to Argenx’s medication, Zilbrysq is a peptide that addresses a special goal.
The accepted kind 1 diabetes and myasthenia gravis therapies are power remedies, like common purposes of fireside suppression that don’t extinguish the fireplace for good. Along with probably higher efficacy, Cour goals to supply sufferers long-lasting results. Puisis mentioned preclinical analysis suggests the impact of Cour’s therapies final for the lifetime of the animal. To be truthful, builders of engineered Tregs additionally say their therapies might supply long-lasting results. The sturdiness of each sorts of remedies nonetheless have to be proven in human testing. However one benefit that Cour might have over Tregs is manufacturability. Making a remedy from nanoparticles is inexpensive and extra simply scalable in comparison with engineering a affected person’s cells or donor cells into cell therapies.
Cour’s Sequence A financing was co-led by Lumira Ventures and Alpha Wave Ventures. Different buyers embrace Roche Enterprise Fund; Pfizer, by its Pfizer Breakthrough Development Initiative; Bristol Myers Squibb; Angelini Ventures; and the JDRF T1D Fund. Puisis mentioned the financing will assist the development of each of its applications by Part 2a scientific growth. As for Cour’s identify, Puisis mentioned it’s spinoff of the phrase “braveness” and is the brainchild of one of many startup’s scientists.
“You want quite a lot of braveness to be in biotech and to be within the discovery enterprise,” Puisis defined.