Ventyx bags $114M to test drugs against hot immunology targets

Ventyx bags $114M to test drugs against hot immunology targets

Ventyx Biosciences has exited stealth mode with $114 million to fund development of immunology programs. The venBio Partners-led financing will support a pipeline led by a S1P1R modulator that is in clinical development as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

California-based Ventyx is a combination of three asset-centric companies linked to Raju Mohan. In 2015, Mohan founded Oppilan Pharma, before going on to set up Zomagen Biosciences three years later. By 2019, Mohan had taken up the CEO post at Ventyx, a position he used to bring all three companies together to form one business with a multi-asset immunology pipeline.

Investors see promise in Mohan’s vision. The $114 million financing attracted the support of backers including Third Point, RTW Investments, Janus Henderson Investors, Wellington Management and OrbiMed, as well as lead investor venBio.

The money will fund further development of a S1P1R modulator developed by Oppilan. The therapy, then known as OPL-002, entered clinical development in 2019. A data drop last year linked the drug to dose-dependent reductions in circulating lymphocytes, providing early validation of the idea that the asset can tamp down inflammation by stopping immune cells entering the bloodstream.

Equipped with the phase 1 data and funding, Ventyx plans to assess the drug as a treatment for IBD. Ventyx also sees opportunities to use the drug in dermatology indications. Other drugs, including Idorsia’s cenerimod and Johnson & Johnson’s ponesimod, have similar mechanisms of action and are in development in indications including multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Ventyx’s pipeline also features a TYK2 inhibitor. That drug, which was developed by Ventyx, hits the same target as molecules including Bristol Myers Squibb’s deucravacitinib. Ventyx sees potential to move beyond psoriasis, the indication in which deucravacitinib is most validated, and go after other diseases pursued by Bristol Myers such as lupus and Crohn’s.

The third asset in Ventyx’s pipeline is a NLRP3 inhibitor that is due to enter the clinic in the second half of the year. The Zomagen-originated molecule is designed to inhibit the NLRP3 inflammasome, which is activated in many indications, to stop it from driving aberrant inflammation. The target has attracted the interest of many companies, perhaps most notably when Roche paid $451 million to acquire Inflazome last year. Bristol Myers and Novartis have also bought NLRP3 drugs.

Ventyx faces stiff competition, in some cases from larger, more advanced rivals, in each of its main areas of focus. Yet, in bringing together drugs targeting some of the hottest immunology targets and combining them with an experienced management team, Ventyx has emerged as a company with a shot at delivering on its aim to transform the treatment of autoimmune disease.

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