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Record biotech deal for inflammation drug start-up

A research partnership between the University of Queensland (UQ) and Trinity College Dublin on proteins called inflammasomes, resulted in the formation of a start-up company called Inflazome, to turn research findings on inflammation into real-world drugs. It recently sold to Roche for AU$617,000,000 one of the largest deals in Australian and Irish biotech history. The acquisition gives Roche full rights to Inflazome’s portfolio of inflammasome inhibitors.

The IP behind Inflazome’s drug candidates is based on collaborative research between Prof. Matt Cooper, Prof. Kate Schroder, Dr Rebecca Coll and Prof. Avril Robertson from UQ and Prof. Luke O’Neill from Trinity College Dublin.

Inflammation is one of the body’s immune processes but one that can easily get inappropriately induced in a range of chronic inflammatory diseases including atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. One step in the inflammation pathway involves a large protein complex called an inflammasome. When this is activated, a chain of events is set in motion, causing inflammation to occur.

A key component of inflammasomes is a protein called NLRP3 and the researchers have identified a number of chemicals that block its action. These have been shown to reduce inflammation and degeneration of cells in the brains of mice with Parkinson’s disease, while increasing their motor performance. These molecules are now considered as drug candidates and are in clinical trials for treating conditions including cardiovascular disease, arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and motor neuron disease.

This research into inflammasomes was enabled by microscopy from the UQ Microscopy Australia facility, the Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis.

Published on: Feb 19, 2021