The French company Inotrem has raised €39M to fund an immunotherapy for septic shock, an often deadly condition caused by infections in the bloodstream.
Led by the Hong Kong investor Morningside Ventures, the Series B round will finance a phase IIb trial of Inotrem’s lead candidate drug nangibotide, expected to start in November this year. The company will also use part of the funds to develop a diagnostic tool that can identify those patients most likely to benefit from the treatment. In addition, Inotrem plans to use the rest of the money to expand its pipeline to tackle chronic inflammatory diseases.
Also known as blood poisoning, sepsis is a condition caused by pathogens such as bacteria invading the bloodstream, and the immune system overreacting with uncontrolled inflammation. This can lead to septic shock, where the huge inflammation causes the collapse of the circulatory system. Though there is a range of treatments to stabilize blood pressure, none are able to tackle the underlying inflammation, and around 35% of patients with septic shock die.
Inotrem’s nangibotide is a peptide drug designed to control the widespread inflammation seen in patients with septic shock. The drug blocks the action of a protein called TREM-1, which is found on the surface of immune cells and amplifies inflammation. Importantly, the drug leaves other elements of the immune system intact so that it can continue fighting any invading pathogens.
Together with Roche, Inotrem is also developing a diagnostic test that measures levels of TREM-1 in the patients’ blood. According to results from a phase IIa trial completed last year, patients with high levels of TREM-1 in the blood are likely to benefit the most from the drug. Inotrem’s diagnostic test can therefore help to personalize the therapy to these patients.
Nangibotide also has the potential to treat other conditions involving severe inflammation. Inotrem is currently testing the drug in phase I for the treatment of heart attack, where inflammation can exacerbate damage to the heart tissue.
The high mortality rate of septic shock makes it a focus for other biotechs in Europe as well as Inotrem. The German company Adrenomed is developing an antibody drug that can stop blood pressure decreasing to dangerous levels in septic shock. Taking a different treatment route, the Belgian cell therapy company TiGenix, now owned by Takeda, is developing a donor stem cell therapy to treat severe sepsis.
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