Interline Therapeutics, a research firm focused on elucidating protein communities to define molecular mechanisms of disease, has announced it has raised $92m USD in funding. The money reportedly will be used to expand its research platform and to develop six of its key preclinical therapeutic programs.
Zach Sweeney, Interline Therapeutics CEO, recently spoke with Outsourcing-Pharma about the company’s work, its pursuit to find novel therapies for cancer and other conditions, and the future of drug discovery.
OSP: Who you are, specialties, and what sets you apart from companies offering similar solutions?
ZS: Interline Therapeutics is a drug discovery company founded to systematically define how protein communities (dynamic networks of interacting proteins) are dysregulated in disease. Our ultimate goal is to improve the process of discovering new medicines while developing new treatments for cancer and inflammatory diseases.
Drug development is more successful when it is based on targets validated by strong human genetic evidence, yet for many common diseases, the application of genetic information to drug discovery has met with limited success. We have enough data to know that many genetic variants cause disease by changing protein community dynamics, but the exact interactions and mechanisms are often still poorly defined.
New genetic technologies are now helping to elucidate protein communities known to contribute to disease, while advances in experimental and computational proteomics now enable the systematic characterization of protein communities in their native environments. These proteo-genomic data unlock new strategies for developing drugs for promising targets that were previously considered inaccessible.
Our approach is distinguished by unique insights and expertise in three key areas. First, we have developed a genomics pipeline that allows us to identify the specific proteins whose interactions are dysregulated in disease. Second, we have expertise in proteomics and computational biology that allows us to understand how these proteins are interacting with their communities and how their interactions are changed in disease.
Finally, we have a very experienced drug discovery team that uses advanced biophysics, computational chemistry, and other important tools to develop drugs that remodel protein communities and reduce disease progression. Our aligned focus on these dimensions of protein communities will distinguish us from other groups and allow us to more effectively discover drugs for genetically validated pathways.
OSP: Why are your three 'pillars' (genomics, communities, and modulators) especially important to development and discovery in precision medicine?
ZS: The concept of precision medicine recognizes that different cellular signaling pathways may be dysregulated in individuals suffering from diseases with a nearly identical clinical presentation. The goal of precision medicine is first to identify these signaling pathways using genetic information and disease biomarkers, and then to use this information to tailor drug treatment strategies according to the signaling pathway (not just the disease presentation).
Clearly these goals cannot be broadly achieved unless we understand signaling pathways in greater detail. In particular, we need to take a holistic approach to considering how genetic variation affects dynamic, interconnected protein communities. This level of understanding contrasts with the poorly defined static signaling pathways that are currently proposed to connect genetic variants to disease markers.
Additional mechanistic information associated with protein community dynamics is essential to properly define signaling pathways, as well as the right drug target, and effective modes of drug action. It is really only with this information that we are able to robustly identify patients likely to benefit from precisely defined therapeutic strategies.
Each pillar of Interline’s protein community platform is therefore critical. Our genomics focus links common diseases to individual genetic variation and helps us to understand which proteins are likely to participate in dysregulated signaling.
Interline’s community technologies allow us to connect these genetic variants to protein community changes—truly the epicenter of drug development. Modulators represent the novel approaches to changing protein communities, and ultimately, the innovative medicines that modulate signaling pathways in predictable ways to provide benefit for patients.
OSP: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
ZS: We are entering a new age of drug discovery. For the first time, we can now systematically use human genetics to define how new drugs are discovered for common diseases. Protein communities- the key units of cell signaling - are now being defined by the combination of genetic datasets and mature proteomic and computational technologies.
Historically, when these key datasets have been available for a drug target, drug development has been more successful. Our goal is to expand the availability of these data and implement a prospective, technology-driven approach to improve the efficiency and success rate of drug discovery.
To enable this approach, we have assembled a world-class team of investors and drug discovery scientists who together already initiated drug discovery programs. The accomplished scientific team at Interline has been directly involved in the invention of over 60 development candidates and investigational 20 medicines that have been studied in the clinic. Our founding academic advisors are leading experts in drug discovery, proteomics, and structural biology. They also provide us with an impressive breadth of experience and technical insight.
Fewer than 5% of new drug-discovery programs currently result in the identification of a new marketed medicine. We believe that our protein community approach will reveal important, druggable mechanisms of disease and change that success rate substantially.