Karo Bio and Pfizer to collaborate on innovative drugs for autoimmune diseases


RORgamma drug discovery programme will target autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis

Swedish pharma company Karo Bio has entered into a research collaboration agreement with Pfizer to discover and develop novel small molecule RORgamma modulators for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

Under the agreement, Pfizer will provide full funding for the research costs and have the exclusive right to market any products that may be developed as a result of the collaboration. Karo Bio may receive up to US$217m (€166m) in upfront and milestone payments in addition to potential royalty fees.

The nuclear hormone receptor RORgamma is a novel attractive target for the treatment of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis. RORgamma directly controls the production and secretion of the cytokine IL-17, a major contributor to inflammation. The receptor’s key role in driving disease pathology has been implicated through clinical studies using monoclonal antibodies that neutralize IL-17 activity.

‘The central role of RORgt in Th17 cell differentiation coupled with the increasing clinical validation for the importance of IL-17 and other Th17-derived cytokines in autoimmune diseases, makes RORgt a compelling target,’ says Jose-Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, senior vice president, Biotherapeutics, Worldwide Research and Development, Pfizer.

Karo Bio has developed a proprietary RORgamma drug discovery programme and has discovered novel, potent, and specific RORgamma modulators.

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‘We are delighted to collaborate on RORgamma with Pfizer. This partnership secures a pole position within this new and rapidly evolving area of autoimmune diseases. It also confirms the commercial value of Karo Bio’s leading position in the nuclear receptor drug development field,’ says Per Bengtsson, ceo of Karo Bio.