Former Novartis CEO Joins MicroBio to Fight Autoimmune Diseases


Dr Carolin Barth / Courtesy of MicroBio.

Dr. Carolin Barth, formerly Global Head of Business and Pipeline Strategy, Cell and Gene, at Novartis, assumes the role of Managing Director of Oxford, UK MiroBio. The biotech company is focused on a new class of precision therapies for autoimmune diseases. Barth took the time to speak with BioSpace prior to the announcement. Its official start date is September 25.

MiroBio’s pipeline involves checkpoint reception pathways, not for immuno-oncology indications, but for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Control pathways regulate the function of immune cells, each with its own role in specific types of immune cells and different activities in disease. MiroBio believes that it can selectively activate (agonize) the appropriate checkpoint receptor to control overactive immune cells without being largely immunosuppressive. At this point, Barth declined to say which autoimmune indications the company would focus on first, although she did note that autoimmune diseases include irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

The company’s compounds are designed to activate inhibitor control pathways via receptor agonists, which Barth described as “balancing the immune system.” She noted that “cancer patients often exhibit autoimmune-like activity.”

Essentially, the new class of antibodies in MiroBio activate cell surface brakes, like the PD-1 protein on T lymphocytes. This brake prevents immune cells from attacking the body without decreasing its ability to fight pathogens. .

The two compounds are MB272, which targets the immune receptor BTLA, and is expected to enter a Phase I clinical trial in early 2022. The second is MB151, a PD-1 agonist program, which is in preclinical development. Barth expects him to enter the clinic sometime after MB272.

Barth said MiroBio is “a very exciting company, both in terms of its technology and its approach to precision immunology”. She specifically noted people.

The company recently added Julian Hirst, formerly of Immunocore, as CFO, and Lynne Murray, formerly of AstraZeneca, as senior vice president of research and development. While at Immunocore, Hirst was instrumental in raising more than $ 930 million in three private rounds, a venture debt financing and an initial public offering (IPO). During his time at AstraZeneca, Murray was responsible for regeneration, early airways and immunology.

Barth has held positions of increasing responsibility at Novartis for 17 years, serving as a global program manager for numerous development programs in areas such as dermatology, rheumatology and chronic myeloid leukemia. As Global Head of Dermatology, she played an important role in the development and commercialization of Cosentyx and Xolair. She obtained her medical degree from the University of Tübingen, Germany, and did her residency in hematology and oncology at the University Hospital of Tübingen.

“I am very happy to join MiroBio, a company that stands out for its deep expertise, focus and bold vision to deliver a new and better class of therapies for autoimmune diseases,” said Barth. “With its expertise in the design of agonist antibodies and its unique approach to understanding both the function of the checkpoint pathway and its potential in a wide variety of pathological settings, I believe that MiroBio can provide several new first-class drugs. order that provide patients with more effective and safer treatment options. “

Barth discussed the company’s drug discovery engine, I-ReSToRe, which she said “can assess more than 70 inhibitory checkpoints and determine how they work in specific cell types.”

The company’s pathway database draws on a growing global network of collaborators that enables it to catalog diseased inhibitory receptor states, which will provide a context for the future selection of patient populations for clinical trials and studies. very targeted indications.

The company is the culmination of 15 years of foundational work at the University of Oxford. The immune cell receptor antibody modulators were based on research by its founding scientists, Simon Davis, professor of molecular immunology at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, and Richard Cornall, Nuffield professor of clinical medicine at Oxford. MicroBio officially spear in October 2019 with a funding round of $ 34 million co-led by Oxford Sciences Innovation and Samsara Biocapital. He was joined by Advent Life Sciences and SR One.

At the time, said Davis, “We have been studying key aspects of signaling through receptors in immune cells for over 15 years. By working together with MiroBio and its investors, we can now translate our knowledge, ideas and technologies into important new drugs that could dramatically improve the lives of patients.

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