AstraZeneca Partners With Orca for Development of Oral Autoimmune Drugs

AstraZeneca is collaborating with UK-based Orca Pharmaceuticals to develop new drugs for a wide range of autoimmune diseases.

The companies announced a three year collaboration to develop inhibitors of retinoic acid-related orphan nuclear receptor gamma (RORγ), which is believed to have potential against a wide range of autoimmune diseases for which there is currently no safe, orally available and effective treatment. Currently, the standard of care treatments for conditions like arthritis and psoriasis are administered through injections.

RORγ plays a key role in the immune system by helping convert a population of immune cells called CD4+ T cells into T-helper 17 (TH17) cells, which in turn produce chemicals known as cytokines to drive the immune response. Excessive activity of TH17 cells and other RORγ+ immune cells have been implicated in various autoimmune conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

AstraZeneca has agreed to pay up to $122.5 million over three years in exchange for the right to collaborate on Orca’s stable of early-stage RORγ blockers, and will integrate these into its in-house program. Scientists from both companies will work together to identify lead compounds from this program for progression and characterize the autoimmune condition to which the lead compounds are best suited. At the end of the collaboration, AstraZeneca will have the option to acquire the Orca compounds.

“Respiratory, inflammation and autoimmune diseases represent a main therapeutic area for AstraZeneca. We are delighted to be partnering with Orca Pharmaceuticals in this hot area of immunology science to help us create potentially best-in-class chemical assets and candidate drugs for patients who currently do not have any oral medicines available to treat their chronic conditions,” said Dr. Maarten Kraan, Head of the Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases Innovative Medicines unit, AstraZeneca.

Source: Orca Pharmaceuticals

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