Pharma Focus Asia

AZTherapies Strengthens Neuroinflammation-Targeted Pipeline Through Acquisition of Smith Therapeutics

Friday, October 25, 2019

AZTherapies, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company developing therapeutics to extend brain health, today announced the acquisition of Smith Therapeutics, a private biopharmaceutical company with a shared goal of targeting neuroinflammation to treat neurodegenerative disease. Smith Therapeutics’ Founder and Chief Executive Officer Philip Ashton-Rickardt, Ph.D., has joined the senior leadership team at AZTherapies as Senior Vice President of Immunology. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Smith Therapeutics’ proprietary research platform focuses on the use of modified T cells to restore a healthy balance of inflammatory and regulatory cells in the brain. To date, Smith has successfully engineered immunosuppressive T regulatory (Treg) cells with Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs) targeting brain glial cells. Previous research has demonstrated the ability of Tregs to dampen microglial activity and reduce neuroinflammation in models of neurodegeneration, suggesting their potential utility in the treatment of diseases including Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and others.

“This acquisition represents a meaningful step forward for us as we continue to strengthen our leadership position in the development of therapies targeting neuroinflammation to stop or slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases,” said David R. Elmaleh, Ph.D., Founder, CEO, and Chairman of AZTherapies. “We are excited to be working with Philip as we add this cutting-edge technology to our portfolio of innovative programs. An esteemed immunologist and inventor of the technology, Philip brings unparalleled expertise to the company and we look forward to advancing this CAR-Treg program further into IND-enabling studies and into clinical development as rapidly as possible.”

Dr. Ashton-Rickardt commented on the acquisition and his appointment: “Our shared rationale of targeting neuroinflammation as the root cause of neurodegenerative disease makes this acquisition a great strategic fit for us. With AZTherapies’ expertise in drug development and clinical trial execution, we believe that together, we are well positioned to advance our CAR-Treg technology and fundamentally change neurodegenerative disease progression.”

Prior to launching Smith Therapeutics in 2017, Dr. Ashton-Rickardt was Chair in Immunology at Imperial College London, Visiting Professor, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Chicago. His work has been recognized by his peers through the award of tenure from The University of Chicago and by his fellow citizens as a recipient of the Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Bill Clinton. He has published more than 65 peer-reviewed papers in more than 30 academic journals (including Cell, Science, Immunity, and Nature Immunology), has served as an editor for several academic journals, and has been a member of grant review boards globally. Dr. Ashton-Rickardt received a B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of London, King’s College with honors, a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Edinburgh, and completed post-doctoral work at the University of Edinburgh and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Molecular Biology and Molecular Immunology, respectively.

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