Flagship Pioneering Launches Company to Explore New Biological Pathway
Flagship Pioneering launched a new company called Inzen Therapeutics, which will discover and develop a new class of medicines based on a new area of biology that will provide new therapeutic approaches to multiple types of diseases.
This new pathway, called Thanokine Biology, provides the potential for new approaches to cancer, fibrotic disorders, immune-inflammatory disorders, metabolic disorders and degenerative diseases. Thanokine Biology was discovered by Flagship Pioneering scientists and is believed to exert “broad and fundamental influence on cell state.” The discovery of this new type of biology led to the formation of Inzen Therapeutics in 2017 to focus on the potential provided by this new area of focus.
Inzen is discovering and developing drugs based on the discovery that living cells process and respond to inputs from cells that are dying, either as a normal step in the cycle of cell turnover or abnormally under disease conditions, Flagship said in a statement. The business incubator added that the new type of biology is a “rich and untapped source of insights” that can be used in disease treatment.
The company’s lead programs in oncology are designed to both kill tumor cells and direct Thanokines from the dying tumor to broadly rewire the tumor microenvironment and generate strong immune responses. Inzen is also targeting indications where dysregulated responses to turnover are already known to drive important processes like fibrosis and regeneration, including lung and liver fibrosis, Flagship Pioneering said.
Inzen will be helmed by industry veteran Volker Herrmann, a partner at Flagship Pioneering and former executive at SQZ Biotechnologies and Pfizer.
“Every time biological science has discovered a fundamental new way that cells respond to inputs from their environment, for example neurotransmitters, hormones, or cytokines, that insight has translated quickly into a broad range of therapeutic options,” Herrmann said in a statement. “Thanokine Biology is becoming an equally important and fruitful area of investigation. I am delighted to join the exceptional leadership team at Inzen and to help advance its rich and growing pipeline of novel therapeutics.”
Herrmann succeeds Doug Cole, the founding chief executive officer of Inzen. Cole remains chairman of the board of directors, as well as a managing partner at Inzen. Other members of the executive team include Chief Operating Officer Jason Park. Pete Gough will serve as chief scientific officer.
“Inzen's insights, pioneered and refined over the last four years, significantly expand our understanding of the nature of these inputs and cells' responses to them, shedding light on a fundamental, but previously overlooked, aspect of biology,” Cole said in a statement.
Inzen isn’t the only new initiative undertaken by Flagship. On Tuesday, Flagship Pioneering launched a new division dubbed Pioneering Medicines. Pioneering Medicines' mandate is to build a world-class biopharmaceutical R&D capability that will conceive and develop a portfolio of life-changing treatments for patients. Pioneering Medicines will be able to harness the power of its parent’s multiple scientific platforms found in 40 different companies. The idea is to use the technology owned by those companies, including the likes of Moderna and Evelo Biosciences, to take research into new areas that are not being studies by those companies.
“With visibility and access to all Flagship companies, Pioneering Medicines is well positioned to originate new medicine ideas based on these platforms. Pioneering Medicines also has the unique ability to combine these platforms, harnessing the power of multiple Flagship scientific innovations to create truly novel products,” Flagship Pioneering said in a statement.
Despite the trailblazing efforts of researchers within those 40 companies, Noubar Afeyan, founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, said there are still innumerable therapeutic opportunities that go unexplored. Pioneering Medicines will leverage Flagship’s innovation approach to find those opportunities and explore them through a robust R&D program.
“This unique model allows Flagship to achieve greater value from our existing scientific innovations for both patients and investors,” Afeyan said in a statement.