IFM Therapeutics is doubling down on its asset-centric subsidiary model, raising $55.5 million to launch an incubator and up to three new subsidiaries focused on developing small molecules targeted at the innate immune system for oncology and inflammatory disorders.
New investor Omega Funds led the financing, joined by existing investors Atlas Venture and Abingworth.
The new funds will enable IFM Therapeutics LLC to move two candidates into the clinic within the next three years. The company said it will be pursuing a basket of innate immune targets, including a number that fall into the inflammasome and pattern recognition receptor space.
Inflammasome complexes have come to the fore as attractive targets because they sit upstream of cytokines, meaning interfering with them can cut off inflammation at the source. IFM is one of the few companies pursuing novel inflammasome targets beyond NLRP3 (see "Biotechs Explore the Next Generation of Inflammasome Targets, with Caution").
The first candidate to emerge from the new IFM Discovery incubator and advance to preclinical testing will be moved into IFM Quattro, the company's third subsidiary, for further development. The latest financing will also enable IFM Therapeutics to create up to two more subsidiaries to house additional programs.
IFM itself spun out of IFM Therapeutics Inc. to develop the parent company's remaining assets after it was acquired in 2017 by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY).
After the BMS sale, IFM regrouped and created two new subsidiaries, IFM Due and IFM Tre, both of which entered deals with Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS) less than a year after they launched.
In April, Novartis paid $310 million up front and up to $1.3 billion in milestones for IFM Tre, gaining IFM-2427, an NLRP3 antagonist in Phase I testing (see "IFM Tre Deal Offers Glimpse Into Novartis' M&A Future").
In September, Novartis entered a deal to finance IFM Due's R&D costs in exchange for an option to acquire the subsidiary for up to $840 million in upfront and milestone payments. IFM Due is developing antagonists of cGAS and STING for inflammatory, autoimmune and neuroinflammatory diseases (see "In Third Pharma Deal, IFM Partners c-GAS-STING Unit with Novartis").
In conjunction with the financing round, Omega’s Paulina Hill, Atlas’ Jean-François Formela and Abingworth’s Shelley Chu will join the boards of IFM Discovery and IFM Quattro.
IFM also said that Martin Seidel, the company’s EVP for research and development, has been named CEO, succeeding co-founder Gary Glick, who will assume the post of executive chairman. Seidel will also sit on the company’s board.
Targets: cGAS - cGAMP synthase; NLRP3 (NALP3; CIAS1) - NLR family pyrin domain containing 3; STING (TMEM173) - Transmembrane protein 173