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Utah Business

Following an $11 million funding round, Sorriso Pharmaceuticals has created a first-of-its-kind anti-inflammatory drug for patients with IBD.

Sorriso Pharmaceuticals is creating the first orally-delivered anti-inflammatory drug for patients with IBD

If you are one of over 3 million United States adults suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, you know these diseases are not something to shrug off. These diseases contribute to significant morbidities such as severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, weight loss, and malnutrition due to gastrointestinal (GI) tract damage. 

This may even lead to shorter life expectancies in those affected, as some studies have shown people living with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s have a shorter average life expectancy than those who don’t. But Utah-based Sorriso Pharmaceuticals is looking to calm these immune systems with the most targeted therapy to date. 

Following a $31M funding round, Sorriso—Portuguese for “smile”—is equipped to decrease the inflammatory burden worldwide by developing targeted antibody therapeutics against key regulators of these burdensome intestinal diseases, offering solace for the many people without a current solution to ease their IBD symptoms. 

Sorriso is currently advancing a pipeline of disease-modifying antibodies specifically to treat inflammatory intestinal diseases. These antibodies, generated from their platform, can be delivered orally and are designed to maintain activity throughout the intestinal system—a unique aspect of this pipeline. The lead program (SOR102) is in line to take on IBD directly and potently, simultaneously inhibiting TNFa and IL-23, two clinically validated IBD drivers. This novel approach combines the strong clinical impact of injectable antibody therapeutics with the benefits of oral administration, resulting in targeted activity, negligible systemic exposure, and minimal immunogenicity. 

“Current systemic IBD therapies are suboptimal and have a greater risk of immunosuppression,” says Ciara Kennedy, president and CEO of Sorriso Pharmaceuticals. “Our platform has the ability to transform this therapy with minimal systemic exposure.”

Essentially, Sorriso’s therapy offers more targeted, less toxic, and more effective treatment for IBD than ever before. And this is a big deal, as antibody therapeutics are notorious for their “off-target” effects. Because our bodies are already filled with self-made antibodies—and we are also filled with massive amounts of self-made antigens for non-self antibodies to bind to—therapeutics must be tailored carefully so as not to cause undue harm in tissue sites away from the problem area. Furthermore, antibody therapies tend to “clump together,” often binding to itself before it can exert its effect on the needed site of disease. 

It’s no small feat to tailor an antibody therapeutic to this degree to allow for less total body toxicity and greater efficacy treatment to a restricted region of the body. And thanks to the strong showing of support in the form of a $31 million Series A financing round co-led by New Enterprise Associates and Arix Bioscience, Sorriso aims to use the new funding to advance its pipeline of novel oral antibodies to address unmet needs in immune-mediated diseases.

Kennedy brings with her an onslaught of experience in advancing notable biotechnology innovations over the years, which will be critical to Sorriso’s potential success as they head into an exciting year of investigational new drug applications with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). She boasts a proven track record of delivering significant results and advancing therapeutic and diagnostic programs across multiple therapeutic areas, including oncology, immunology, and central nervous system therapeutics. Kennedy has seen these through multiple stages of development, from bench-top research to full FDA approval. 

Perhaps the most notable of Kennedy’s recent experiences was in her leadership roles at Amplyx Pharmaceuticals, a former portfolio company of Arix Bioscience, before Pfizer bought out Amplyx in 2021—the same Arix Bioscience Sorriso has now partnered with to bring this antibody therapeutic to fruition. And with the help of esteemed Arix managing director Mark Chin joining the Sorriso board of directors, Kennedy finds herself in good, familiar company.

“I am looking forward to working with Mark and the Arix team again as we advance our pipeline of innovative therapies through clinical development,” Kennedy says. Suffice it to say, Sorriso has plenty of reason to smile their way through to FDA clearance in the future.

Jeremie is an experienced MedTech and healthcare consultant, research scientist, entrepreneur, and clinician-in-training. He is passionate about identifying clinical shortcomings and developing patient-centered solutions through novel therapeutic approaches, healthcare delivery optimization, and translational research innovation.