Earlier this week, Dublin, Ireland-based Inflazome announced that Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY) agreed to acquire it for €380M upfront plus milestones, signaling the biopharma giant’s bullishness on an area generating substantial buzz called inflammasomes, innate immune system receptors and sensors that play key roles in a range of inflammatory disorders as well as metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases, including asthma, Parkinson’s disease (PD), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, NASH, type 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and chronic kidney disease.
Inflammasomes regulate the activation of an enzyme called caspase-1, a protease in the inflammasome complex that, through its binding activity, releases proinflammatory proteins IL-1ß and IL-18. One of the most characterized inflammasomes is nod-like receptor protein 3 (NLRP3) which acts as a “danger sensor” in the body to release the aforementioned pro-inflammatory cytokines and induce uncontrolled lytic cell death (disintegration of the cell via rupture of the cell wall or membrane).
Inflazome’s lead drug is inzomelid, an orally available, brain-penetrant, small molecule inhibitor of NLRP3.
In March, the company announced encouraging results from a patient with cryopyrin-associated periodic syndrome (CAPS), a rare inherited inflammatory disorder, who was experiencing a disease flare and received inzomelid. The patient rapidly improved within hours and went into remission within days. A Phase 2 study is next up, although the long-term interest is PD and AD.
It is developing another NLRP3 inhibitor called somalix to treat inflammatory disorders in other parts (non-brain) of the body.
The deal builds on Roche’s experience in the space. In 2018, subsidiary Genentech bought Jecure Therapeutics, another developer of NLRP3 inhibitors. Other players include Bristol Myers Squibb, which acquired NLRP3 assets via its takeover of IFM Therapeutics in 2017, NodThera, Olatec Therapeutics and ZyVersa Therapeutics.