RARE Daily

Inzen Therapeutics Unveiled to Explore Novel Medicines Based on Input from Dying Cells

January 13, 2021

Rare Daily Staff

Flagship Pioneering unveiled Inzen Therapeutics, a new biotech it created in 2017 to discover and develop a novel class of medicines based on a previously unrecognized area of biology they’ve named Thanokine Biology that exerts broad and fundamental influence on cell state.

Inzen Therapeutics is the result of explorations by the scientist-entrepreneurs of Flagship Labs who asked, “What if the function of a cell depended not only on input from other living cells but also on input from cells as they turnover or die?”

Historically, understanding how cells process and respond to information from their environment and other living cells has led to many life-saving medicines.  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. This interplay underlies Thanokine Biology and is an untapped source of insights into how to prevent and treat a range of serious diseases. Inzen has built a proprietary product-platform to exploit these insights in order to develop unprecedented therapeutics for cancer, fibrotic disorders, autoimmune disorders, metabolic disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases.

“Intervening in how cells process and respond to inputs in their environment has been one of the most fruitful arenas of drug discovery for decades,” says Douglas Cole, chairman of Inzen and managing partner at Flagship Pioneering, who led the founding team that created the company. “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. Inzen is using its platform to discover and develop transformative treatments for multiple disease categories.”

Inzen’s founding team, including Flagship Senior Principal and Inzen Chief Operating Officer Jason Park, has developed a product-platform that applies advances in mass spectrometry and machine learning, novel probes, unique assays, genetic and chemical biological technologies to characterize Thanokine Biology at scale and create drug candidates.  Inzen has created an expansive proprietary Thanokine Biology database that provides a previously unobtainable view of critical cell responses in health and disease. This approach is generating precise, actionable insights into disease targets and therapeutics.

Inzen’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 dysrugulated responses to turnover are already known to drive important processes like fibrosis and regeneration, including lung and liver fibrosis.

Along with unveiling Inzen, Flagship announced the appointment of industry veteran Volker Herrmann, as the company’s new CEO and partner at Flagship Pioneering, succeeding founding CEO Douglas Cole. Previously, he was chief operating officer and president at SQZ Biotechnologies, a cell therapy company. Herrmann has more than 20 years of experience in management, marketing, sales, business development, and strategy, including a 17-year career at 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,” said Herrmann. “Thanokine Biology is becoming an equally important and fruitful area of investigation.”

Photo: Volker Herrmann, CEO of Inzen

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