Orca Pharmaceuticals, and AstraZeneca embarked on a three year collaboration to develop inhibitors of retinoic acid-related orphan nuclear receptor gamma (RORγ). Inhibitors of this receptor are believed to have potential against a wide range of autoimmune diseases for which there is currently no safe, orally available and effective treatment.
RORγ plays a key role in the immune system. Specifically, it helps to convert a population of immune cells (CD4+ T) cells into T-helper 17 cells (TH17) which, in turn, produce cytokines that drive the immune response. However, excessive activity of TH17 cells and other RORγ+ immune cells have been implicated in a wide range of autoimmune conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca will gain access to RORγ inhibitors developed by Orca Pharmaceuticals and will integrate these into its in-house programme. Working together, scientists from AstraZeneca and Orca Pharmaceuticals will identify lead compounds from this programme for progression and characterize the autoimmune condition to which the lead compounds are best suited.