IFM Therapeutics is launching its second subsidiary in less than a year. This morning, the Boston-based company, launched IFM Due (pronounced du-way), a subsidiary company developing a suite of cGAS inhibitors and STING antagonists that can target diseases like NASH, lupus and Parkinson’s.
The new subsidiary launched with two preclinical development programs. The first program is aimed at the development of orally available small-molecule antagonists of the STING pathway. These antagonists are expected to block the pathway’s ability to stimulate excessive production of interferons and other pro-inflammatory cytokines. Clinical trials of the first STING antagonist are expected to begin in 2020, IFM said this morning. The second program that will be housed under IFM Due is aimed at the development of small-molecule inhibitors of cGAS, which will block the pathway at a more upstream node.
Both the cGAS/STING pathways are known to drive a number of serious autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases characterized by excessive interferon/cytokine signaling. The cGAS/STING (cyclic GMP-AMP Synthase, Stimulator of Interferon Genes) pathway is a part of the innate immune system that senses cytosolic DNA, which is a danger signal, IFM said. The Boston-based company noted that when microbial or aberrant human DNA is present outside the cell nucleus in the cytosol, cGAS recognizes it and triggers a STING-dependent production of interferon and other inflammatory cytokines. Aberrant cGAS/STING activation underlies some common diseases such as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and Parkinson’s disease.
“The cGAS/STING pathway is exciting because it enables us to focus on genetically validated therapeutic targets that have been implicated in a growing number of autoinflammatory and autoimmune disorders,” IFM Chief Executive Officer Gary Glick said in a statement.
In addition to its preclinical assets, IFM Due launches with the support of Andrea Ablasser, an award-winning immunologist of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Ablasser joins IFM Due as founding scientist and will also serve on the company’s scientific advisory board. In her role, she will provide insights and expertise to accelerate IFM Due’s programs into human trials.
“Understanding the cellular signaling processes of the cGAS/STING pathway is an essential step in developing successful new treatments for interferon-mediated autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases,” Ablasser said in a statement. “I am excited to work alongside the team at IFM to advance novel compounds into the clinic. By pairing the latest scientific insights from our labs with the drug development expertise of IFM’s R&D team led by Dr. Martin Seidel, we have the potential to make a profound difference in the lives of patients.”
Last year, IFM launched the subsidiary IFM Tre, which has a focus on developing a suite of different NLRP3 antagonists. IFM Tre’s pipeline includes three developmental programs including its lead candidate inhibits the activity of NLRP3 outside the central nervous system by directly binding to the protein.
IFM Due makes the second subsidiary launched by IFM Therapeutics since it was founded in 2017. IFM Therapeutics was formed following the $300 million acquisition of IFM Therapeutics by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2017. IFM Therapeutics retained its personnel and facilities, as well as its remaining research programs focused on curbing immune responses that lead to inflammatory diseases and fibrosis.