Irritation is sort of a hearth you simply can’t put out—inflammatory problems are persistent circumstances in spite of everything. If your home is ablaze and a gasoline leak is the trigger, dousing your complete dwelling isn’t a focused option to cease what’s feeding the flames, says John Puisis, co-founder and CEO of Cour Prescription drugs. He compares his startup’s medication to stopping hearth on the supply.
“We go into the basement, and we flip off the gasoline valve fully,” Puisis stated.
Cour’s know-how discovered early validation within the palms of a big pharmaceutical firm that picked up one of many biotech’s applications and is at the moment testing it in mid-stage medical trials. Now the Chicago-based startup desires to do the identical with its inside pipeline and it has raised $105 million for its plans. In doing so, Cour goals to indicate how its strategy to irritation stands aside from 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 quite a lot of inflammation-driven circumstances. The jury remains to be out on these experimental cell therapies, which have restricted, if any, medical knowledge thus far. However Puisis, whose expertise consists of serving as CEO of autoimmune dysfunction drug developer Tolera Therapeutics, stated one drawback with Tregs is that immune suppression from these engineered cells can unfold past their targets, resulting in negative effects.
“What’s fascinating with us versus the others—I received’t identify them—they’re doing generalized Tregs, you may truly get off-target spreading,” Puisis stated. “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 specific autoimmune illness. The composition of all Cour drug candidates is identical, excluding the disease-causing antigen encapsulated inside. Cour’s nanoparticles are about the identical dimension as a cell, which is necessary as they flow into all through the physique. Too giant, and so they may trigger clotting issues, Puisis stated. Too small, and the immune system received’t acknowledge them.
Recognition is vital to how Cour’s therapies reprogram the immune system, Puisis stated. 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 job 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 know-how is predicated 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 printed in 2015 described how nanoparticles may 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 answerable for its medical improvement. In the meantime, Ironwood Prescription drugs holds an choice to license a unique 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 stated Cour is specializing in creating its personal pipeline. Cour’s nanoparticles can encapsulate a number of antigens to handle ailments pushed by a couple of antigen, corresponding to kind 1 diabetes. That illness and the uncommon muscle dysfunction myasthenia gravis are Cour’s lead indications. Cour chosen these ailments as a result of the few accessible therapies for them go away sufferers wanting for one thing higher, Puisis stated.
Drug hunters have pursued antibody therapies for each ailments. 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 12 months. In myasthenia gravis, Argenx markets two antibody fragments, Vyvgart and Hytrulo. Final 12 months, 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 unique goal.
The accepted kind 1 diabetes and myasthenia gravis therapies are persistent remedies, like common functions 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 stated 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 provide long-lasting results. The sturdiness of each sorts of remedies nonetheless have to be proven in human testing. However one benefit that Cour may 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 traders embrace Roche Enterprise Fund; Pfizer, by means of its Pfizer Breakthrough Development Initiative; Bristol Myers Squibb; Angelini Ventures; and the JDRF T1D Fund. Puisis stated the financing will assist the development of each of its applications by means of Part 2a medical improvement. As for Cour’s identify, Puisis stated it’s spinoff of the phrase “braveness” and is the brainchild of one of many startup’s scientists.
“You want a whole lot of braveness to be in biotech and to be within the discovery enterprise,” Puisis defined.