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Showcase: Opsona Therapeutics

Focusing on certain TLR (toll-like receptors) targets with a view to discovering new chemical entities and biologics for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases

 

Awards

  • Boyle Medal - Prof Luke O'Neill, 2009
 

More about Opsona

Deep within our bodies are protective molecules that spring in to action when the body is invaded by microbal infections. Switching on the immune system is the job of “toll-like receptors”. Since their discovery in the mid-1990s, these rapid defensive response triggers have become a focus of attention for researchers working on therapies for auto-immune and inflammatory diseases.

“TLRs are critical initiators of inflammation and have been implicated in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosis, in addition to applications in other fields, including cancer and vaccines. Targeting TLRs with new drug candidates has tremendous potential as a new approach to treat such diseases.” Luke O’Neill, a pioneer in TLR research, Professor of Molecular Immunology at Trinity College Dublin and co-founder of Opsona Therapeutics, a Trinity spin-out company explains.

Since its creation in 2004, Opsona has focused on certain TLR targets with a view to discovering new chemical entities and biologics for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. In addition, the company also pursues a discovery programme that may lead to the generation of new targets in the TLR pathways.

Soon after its inception, Opsona initiated a validating drug discovery collaboration with multi-national pharmaceutical company Wyeth (now a division of Pfizer) that set it on its way to another series of important collaborations. Subsequently the company has formed commercial partnerships with leading international pharmaceutical companies, including, Organon (a division of Schering Plough, recently acquired by Merck) & CSL (Australia).

Opsona Management Team: Dr Mark Heffernan, CEO Founder and Director of Opsona, Mr David Hurley, Chief Finance Officer, Dr Jeremy Skillington, Senior Director, Business Development, Dr Andrew Parker, VP of Research, Ms Mary Reilly, VP of Pharmaceutical & Clinical Development Opsona Management Team: Dr Mark Heffernan, CEO Founder and Director of Opsona, Mr David Hurley, Chief Finance Officer, Dr Jeremy Skillington, Senior Director, Business Development, Dr Andrew Parker, VP of Research, Ms Mary Reilly, VP of Pharmaceutical & Clinical Development

Currently, Opsona's lead programme is an anti-TLR2 antibody and has shown very promising results in a number of preclinical studies including cardiac and kidney ischemia/reperfusion injuries and rheumatiod arthritis. In 2009 Opsona received EMEA Orphan Drug Status for prevention of the Delayed Graft Function associated with solid organ transplantation. It is expected to commence clinical testing in 2011.
In keeping with the highly innovative nature of the company, Opsona is also working on a small molecule drug discovery program targeting the inflammasome, a recently elucidated protein complex that, upon activation, can play a role in type 2 diabetes and gout, among other diseases.

In 2009 Luke O’Neill was awarded the prestigious Boyle Medal for his seminal work in elucidating signaling mechanisms of the immune system, in particular Toll-Like Receptor Signalling.
O’Neill’s co-founders in Opsona are fellow immunologist from Trinity College, Kingston Mills and head of the School of Medicine, Dermot Kelleher along with serial entrepreneur Mark Heffernan, who holds a PhD in Biochemistry from Monash University in Australia.

Opsona has recently expanded its management team and Board of Directors adding significant industry experience to drive the company forward and bring important therapeutics to the market for the benefit of patients.

Since 2004 the company has been successful in raising €28 million from leading investors:

  • Novartis Venture Fund (Switzerland)
  • Inventages Venture Capital (Switzerland)
  • Seroba Kernel (Ireland)
  • Fountain Healthcare Partners (Ireland)
  • Roche Venture Fund (Switzerland)
  • GenenFUND (USA)
  • Enterprise Ireland (Ireland)
 

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