Novo Nordisk buys into NLRP3 program for potential $700m
The deal sees Novo Nordisk enter into a development and license agreement with Ventus Therapeutics for the latter’s lead NLRP3 inhibitor, VENT-01, as well as other unspecified assets.
The lead drug candidate is currently at the investigational new drug-enabling stage, and is being explored for a broad range of conditions, including nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), chronic kidney disease, and other cardiometabolic conditions.
As per the terms of the agreement, Novo Nordisk will pay an upfront fee of $70m (€71m), as well as providing R&D funding. Further down the line, Ventus is eligible to receive an additional $633m in milestone payments, and will receive tiered royalties on any commercial sales.
Karin Conde-Knape, SVP of global drug discovery at Novo Nordisk, stated that VENT-01 had “best-in-class properties and compelling pre-clinical results.”
NLRP3 is a member of a family of proteins known as inflammasome receptors and plays a role in the formation of NLRP3 inflammasome.
Inflammasomes are multiprotein complexes that are involved in regulating the innate immune system. Through the inhibition of NLRP3, it is possible to prevent the creation of the NLRP3 inflammasome, which has been linked with systemic conditions, ranging as broadly as dermatological conditions to neurological disorders.
Ventus stated that it retains the rights to develop NLRP3 inhibitors for certain systemic diseases, including specific inflammatory and respiratory diseases. The biotech will also retain rights to the company’s ‘brain-penetrant’ NLRP3 inhibitor program.
The biotech developed its pipeline of NLRP3 candidates through its ReSOLVE drug discovery platform. Ventus states that the platform is able to find “promising binding pockets in proteins that adopt many transient conformations”, which the biotech can then design small molecule to bind selectively to.
According to the company, this enables them to identify new drug molecules for targets that have not previously been drugged.
Earlier this year, Ventus closed a Series C financing round that brought in $140m through the various investors, including SoftBank and RA Capital Management.
At the time, in February, the biotech stated that the funds would be used to accelerate the scaling of its ReSOLVE platform and to advance its lead drug programs, among them VENT-01 and its brain-penetrant NLRP3 inhibitor.
Novo Nordisk is not the only company to have an interest in the NLRP3 space, with Novartis, Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Roche, among others, having completed deals or acquisitions to gain access to drug candidates in the area.