RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – IMMvention Therapeutix almost hit The Big Pitch out of the park.
The 4-year-old Durham company, which discovers and develops therapies that inhibit inflammation, was one of three finalists in LaunchBio’s Big Pitch competition for the most promising life science or biotech startup in the United States. But it fell a little short of a home run.
LaunchBio is a nonprofit organization that identifies, counsels and supports these high-growth, high-impact, up-and-coming companies so they’ll succeed. This inaugural competition challenged selected startups from Durham, Cambridge, Mass. and San Diego – three of the nation’s leading life sciences hubs – to submit short pre-recorded presentations. They were judged on the basis of strongest pitch and most promising treatment, technology or therapy.
The winner – selected August 20 – was Nutrimedy, a Cambridge company focused on improving access to clinical nutrition. The company provides personalized nutritional support that ranges from general wellness to managing complex dietary restrictions.
IMMvention had won the competition among Durham-area startups earlier in the summer, beating out the likes of CasTag Biosciences, PhosphoGam, Praetego, and TreeCo to advance to the national round.
In the final competition, it was pitted against Nutrimedy and San Diego-based Primordial Genetics, which uses its own genetic technology to design and engineer high-efficiency microbes to address global challenges in sustainable health, food, agriculture, fuels and therapeutics.
In addition to bragging rights, Nutrimedy takes home a $1,000 cash prize and other gifts and in-kind services worth more than $35,000. IMMVention and Primordial Genetics receive $500 cash awards and other benefits.
IMMvention’s technology targets auto-inflammatory diseases for which there are huge unmet needs, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout and Alzheimer’s disease. Its illness-modifying therapies inhibit inflammation caused by inflammasomes that activate inflammatory responses. The company uses its platform to discover small-molecule inhibitors of multiple inflammatory receptors.
IMMvention initially has focused on rare auto-inflammatory illnesses like Still’s disease – which affects people with systemic arthritis – and COVID-19-associated hyper-inflammation that can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome. Recent data have shown that COVID-19 cytokine storm – or hyperactive immune response – is similar to other types of hyper-inflammatory diseases the company was already exploring.
“The LaunchBio competition was unique, and a great opportunity in the midst of COVID-19 to get our story out to investors and the general biotechnology industry,” said Anil Goyal, IMMvention’s CEO and chairman of the board. “With our win in Durham, we were privileged to be in the finals of the competition and to showcase one of the many innovative, next-generation biotechnology companies originating and based in North Carolina.”
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has provided loans to support the company’s development. IMMvention also has received NIH grants and contracts and has collaborated with pharmaceutical companies on various projects.
“It’s an exciting new company we’ve followed with interest and supported over the past several years,” said Vivian Doelling, Ph.D., NCBiotech’s vice president of emerging company development. “We’re delighted to see the business do well in this national competition of outstanding life sciences startups.”
IMMvention was founded in 2017 by scientists from the School of Medicine and the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who specialized in immunology and innate immunity.
(C) N.C. Biotech Center