IM Therapeutics Spins Out of University of Colorado to Focus on Type 1 Diabetes
The company will focus on developing a new therapeutic for Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), with a particular emphasis on inactivating the immune cells that damage the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Specifically, it will work on a group of immune molecules known as human leukocyte antigens (HLA).
“The strategy of directly inhibiting HLA-DQ8 has the potential to preserve beta-cell function if treatment is started early,” said Aaron Michels, one of the co-founders of the company, in a statement. Michels is associate professor of Pediatrics & Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver, the Frieda and George S. Eisenbarth Clinical Immunology Endowed Chair, and director of Clinical Immunology at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes. “With current advancements in diagnostics, we can identify individuals with the HLA-DQ8 gene at risk of T1D before symptoms occur.”
The other co-founder was Peter Gottlieb, professor of Pediatrics & Medicine with tenure at the University of Colorado Health Science Center, and director of Translational Research Unit at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes. Steve Orndorff will be president and chief executive officer. Greg Kading will act as chief financial officer and chief operating officer. Both Orndorff and Kading were at Accera.
Michels will be chief scientific officer and Gottlieb the chief medical officer. The company’s clinical advisors are: Mark Atkinson, currently the American Diabetes Association Eminent Scholar for Diabetes Research and the Jeffrey Keene Family Professor at The University of Florida; Jay Skyler, Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Psychology in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism at the University of Miami; Stephen Gitelman, Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF); Howard Weiner, the Robert L. Kroc Professor of Neurology at the Harvard Medical School; and Michael Holers, Professor of Medicine and Immunology and the Scoville Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The company’s development will focus on an oral small molecule drug, methyldopa, which targets and inhibits the HLA-DQ8 molecule. The lead candidate, IMT-002, is a proprietary formulation of the D enantiomer of methyldopa. The company has received orphan designation for the molecule and is currently in preclinical development for Type 1 Diabetes patients with the HLA-DQ8 gene.
“Our ultimate goal is to inhibit the initiation of an autoimmune response, thus maintaining normal insulin production,” Gottlieb said in a statement. “I am excited to be part of a company that could potentially reduce T1D patients’ lifelong dependence on insulin.”
Orndorff said in a statement, “Our unique personalized small molecule approach to immunotherapy utilized in IMT-002, is being developed to block the peptide binding groove of DQ8 on specific white blood cells. If successful, the pathogenic immune cells would not be able to identify the pancreatic beta-cells and the immune system can’t attack what it can’t see. While our initial focus is on T1D, our intent is to pursue this approach with other genetically defined autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease.”
No financial details about the company were released.