In early June, chronic inflammatory disease-focused NodThera closed a $55m Series B financing round. This financing was led by Novo Ventures, the public and private venture arm of Novo Holdings. Other new investors who participated in the round include Cowen Healthcare Investments and Sanofi Ventures.

NodThera also attracted new funding from existing investors, such as 5AM Ventures and Epidarex Capital, in its latest fundraising round.

“Proceeds from the financing will be used to advance NT-0167 [NodThera’s lead candidate] through clinical studies, further progress the development of additional compounds — including brain-penetrant NLRP3 inhibitors for central nervous system indications — and for continued drug discovery efforts,” says NodThera’s president and CEO Adam Keeney.

Promise of the NLRP3 inflammasome

Founded in 2016 and with offices in the UK and US, NodThera has created a new class of medicines that inhibit the NLRP3 inflammasome.

“The NLRP3 inflammasome regulates the release of two important pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β and IL-18) and other downstream mediators of the inflammatory response,” explains Keeney. “However, the NLRP3 inflammasome can sometimes become chronically activated due to overstimulation by danger signals, leading to chronic inflammation and disease.”

This dark side of the NLRP3 inflammasome is implicated in a range of diseases, such as fibrosis, some cancers, inflammatory bowel disease and neurodegenerative conditions.

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“Chronic inflammation underlies many of the world’s most devastating and debilitating diseases conditions and we have a unique opportunity to fundamentally change the course of disease for patients,” Keeney adds.

Research has shown that inhibiting this inflammasome can help to treat chronic inflammation at its source, without having a general immunosuppressant effect. NodThera has built on this by leveraging small molecule chemistry expertise to create its pipeline of novel compounds for various diseases where NLRP3 plays a role.

Spotlight on NT-0167

NodThera’s lead candidate is called NT-0167, which is currently in Phase I trials to evaluate its “safety and tolerability, as well as pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic response,” Keeney notes. “In preclinical studies, NT-0167 demonstrated potent and selective inhibition of the NLRP3 inflammasome resulting in reductions of IL-1β and IL-18, pro-inflammatory cytokines which are known to play a key role in chronic inflammation.”

As well as continuing to advance NT-0167 through clinical development, the proceeds from the Series B round will “further progress the development of additional compounds — including brain-penetrant NLRP3 inhibitors for central nervous system indications,” says Keeney.

Keeney adds: “Our goal as a company is to develop therapies across multiple indications and to accomplish this, we are taking a thoughtful, strategic approach to match the right molecule to the right clinical application.”

Explaining Novo Ventures’ interest in NodThera

Novo Ventures partner Nanna Lüneborg notes that investors had been following inflammasome and NodThera’s growth for several years.

“NodThera has a pipeline of highly differentiated molecules, with some advancing into clinical development now, and a deeper pipeline of early-stage programs, which positions the company to be a leader in the inflammasome field,” Lüneborg adds.

As such, NodThera fits well into Novo Ventures’ investment approach of identifying and investing in companies leading their field of expertise and developing novel products. Lüneborg explains: “This company is a great example of how we back experienced teams and ground-breaking science in areas of major unmet medical need.”

Challenges of deal-making in a pandemic

The evergreen and long-term nature of Novo Ventures’ fund meant it was less worried about the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the investment market.

“All things considered, we have had a very active deal flow during the pandemic and we have not seen any slowdown,” Lüneborg explains. “On the private company side we have several deals at advanced stages and alongside NodThera we are expecting to announce several more transactions in the near future.”

Keeney adds: “Over the course of the past few months we have been able to progress with our financing goal and close this round of financing which we believe is a testament to the interest in our science and progress made with the portfolio.

“We have put contingency plans in place that have allowed the portfolio to progress, which reassured the investors that we will weather the Covid-19 storm without major impacts in terms of future company milestones. Overall, we and our investors adjusted to the new reality and made the best of the situation.”