Our venture philanthropy program advances novel treatments and products for IBD.
Now in its sixth year, IBD Ventures has invested millions of dollars into promising treatments, diagnostics, and medical devices for IBD. In 2023, we funded several new projects that aim to transform the way IBD and related complications are managed.
A new way to fight inflammation
Inotrem, a French biotech, has identified a novel drug target called TREM-1. “It’s a protein that’s over-expressed in people with active disease,” says Andrés Hurtado-Lorenzo, PhD, Senior Vice President, Translational Research and IBD Ventures. “The company is developing a neutralizing antibody that can decrease inflammation by reducing levels of TREM-1 in people with IBD.”
IBD Ventures’ investment in this project will enable Inotrem to gather the data required to move the antibody on to clinical trials in humans. At the same time, Inotrem is using samples from the Foundation’s massive IBD Plexus® biobank to develop a companion diagnostic tool, which will enable clinicians to identify the patients who are most apt to respond to this treatment.
Healing the intestinal wall
A healthy gut wall (also called the intestinal barrier or mucosa) is key to preventing damaging bacteria in the intestinal tract from reaching the intestinal tissue and bloodstream. Yet in people with active IBD, this barrier is compromised because it is injured and inflamed. A South Korean company has found a unique way to restore it.
Scientists at Nano Intelligent Biomedical Engineering Corporation (NIBEC) are focusing on integrin beta-1, a receptor on the surface of the cells lining the gut wall. They have developed a small protein fragment, known as a peptide, that binds to this receptor and prompts healthy cells to move to the injured site. “The new cells migrate to the site of injury and seal wounds,” says Hurtado-Lorenzo. “That’s how you heal the mucosa.”
NIBEC already has an intravenous formula of this peptide-based drug that is effective in animal models. Thanks to the investment from IBD Ventures, the company is now developing an oral formulation of this peptide that’s suitable for humans, as well as collecting preclinical data that will be needed to move the product to clinical trials.
Treating fibrosis without surgery
Fibrosis, or the buildup of scar tissue that may lead to narrowing and obstruction of the intestines, is a common IBD complication that often calls for surgery. “Right now, the only treatment for fibrosis is surgery,” says Hurtado-Lorenzo. A Spanish company, Medibiofarma, is developing a first-in-class oral therapy to treat this problem.
The Medibiofarma drug targets PPAR-gamma, a protein that plays a role in inflammation as well as fibrosis. There’s already a diabetes drug on the market that suppresses PPAR-gamma, but it’s not widely used because it decreases PPAR-gamma biological functions so much that it causes numerous side effects. Medibiofarma is developing a compound that only partially reduces the action of PPAR-gamma—enough to treat inflammation and fibrosis in people with IBD, but not so much that it causes serious side effects.
Support from IBD Ventures is making it possible for Medibiofarma to conduct pharmacology studies in preparation for clinical trials.