The Tango of Sensation and Inflammation Emerges

Dr. Brian Kim on the left, and Dr. David Artis on the right at their visit in February to Allen Institute in Seattle, WA. Photo from Dr Kim’s Twitter/X account.
Dr. Brian Kim on the left, and Dr. David Artis on the right at their visit in February to Allen Institute in Seattle, WA. Photo from Dr Kim’s Twitter/X account.

Article by Maialen Sebastian

Some dermatological disorders such as atopic dermatitis, alopecia areater, and vitiligo have few treatments available due to the lack of effective medications currently on the market. However, this might change soon with the formation of a new biotech entity called Alys Pharmaceuticals, Inc. that launched on 12th of February. It started with a substantial 100-million-dollar investment from Medicxi, the European healthcare investment fund, with the goal of transforming the treatment paradigm for several dermatology indications of significant prevalence and major unmet need. Alys, based in Boston and Geneva, is the combination of the assets and platforms of Aldena Therapeutics, Graegis Pharmaceuticals, Granular Therapeutics, Klirna Biotech, Nira Biosciences and Vimela Therapeutics, and has a world class leadership team that brings together experts across dermatology and advanced scientific fields.

Alys Pharmaceuticals will be pursuing a consolidated pipeline of more than a dozen programs in the fields of immune-inflammatory skin diseases, auto-immune skin diseases and specialty dermatology. This is a very thrilling news and as Dr. John Harris, Chief Innovation Officer of Alys Pharmaceuticals, said: “It is uniquely exciting to oversee such a rich and diverse pipeline, bringing forward modalities that will break new ground in dermatology, including peptides, sophisticated antibodies, or vectorized siRNA.” Dr. Brian Kim, founder of KliRNA Biotech and hence one of the co-founders of Alys, also said “With its diverse pipeline, Alys’ commitment to advancing the frontiers of immuno-dermatology has the potential to bring transformative solutions to patients worldwide.”

Dr. Brian S. Kim, MD, MTR, FAAD, is Sol and Clara Kest Professor and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Director of the Mark Lebwohl Center for Neuroinflammation and Sensation. The Kim Lab has special interest in the study of patients with itch and other skin conditions focusing on mechanisms that control neuroimmune interactions at the skin barrier surface in order to understand how immune responses interface with the sensory nervous system to regulate inflammation, sensation, and immunity. He is one of the top researchers worldwide in skin cytokine biology and the launching of Alys Pharmaceuticals is not the only good news for him lately.

In November the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, a division of the Seattle-based Allen Institute, announced the launching of a research center in New York City to focus on interactions between the nervous system and the immune system. The new neuroimmunology research center will be led by Dr. Kim together with Dr. David Artis of Weill Cornell Medicine. They’ll bring together a multidisciplinary team to study the intersection of immunology and neuroscience that occur at sites distant from the brain — for example, at the skin, lung and gut surfaces — and analyze how these interactions between the nervous system and the immune system relay sensations back to the brain and regulate organ physiology and immune responses. This pioneering effort aims to reshape our understanding of fundamental biology and human disease, with the near-term goal of changing the way we treat chronic diseases.

The Allen Discovery Center for Neuroimmune Interactions, headquartered at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, will receive 10 million dollars over the course of four years from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, with a total potential for 30 million dollars over eight years. The reason for creating this center is based on the great advances made in immunology and neuroscience in the last decade, revealing the complexity of the communication between the immune system and the nervous system. With this background, the team’s goal now is to study the role of immune cells as environmental and internal sensors influencing various aspects of human behavior and to recognize the new ability of the sensory nervous system to act as an immune organ.

Dr. Artis is director of the Jill Roberts Institute for Research in Inflammatory Bowel Disease and director of the Friedman Center for Nutrition and Inflammation at Weill Cornell Medicine. He said the team will include exceptional investigators from Icahn Mount Sinai, Weill Cornell Medicine, NYU Langone Health, and Yale School of Medicine. The effort represents “a tremendous opportunity to leverage cutting-edge technologies to provide new insights into how the nervous and immune systems communicate with each other to regulate immunity, inflammation and tissue homeostasis,” he added.

Dr. Kim said the center’s goal will be “to exponentially accelerate the frontier of neuroimmunology by bringing together the pioneers who helped shape the emerging field.” If this goal is achieved, the resulting research could “transform numerous fields of biology and medicine, including allergy, autoimmunity, cancer, infection and metabolism,” he added.

David Artis is a long time  member of the International Cytokine and Interferon Society (ICIS) and is currently is the Development Committee chair for ICIS since 2021. He won the Junior Faculty Award at Cytokines 2007 Conference held in Oxford and more recently the ICIS-BioLegend William E. Paul Award, presented at Cytokines 2022 held in Hawaii. Besides, he has shown his commitment to ICIS over the years in many ways: he participated as a presenter in a number of Cytokines Conferences, on the Program Committee in a few of them and as chair in Cytokines 2009 held in Lisbon (Portugal) and Cytokines 2016 held in San Francisco, respectively. 

Dr Kim, also an active ICIS member, has actively participated in ICIS events as a speaker for Bristol Meyers Squibb industry session Cytokines 2022 Conference held in Hawaii and as a co-chair in the ICIS sponsored session about Cytokines in barrier immunity at FOCIS 2023 Conference held in Boston. 

Congratulations for such amazing achievements and best wishes for this new inspiring collaboration!