Orca was established in 2012 to exploit a discovery made by Professor Dan Littman, Dr Jun Huh and colleagues at New York University (NYU). Professor Littman and co-workers found that the orphan nuclear receptor RORγt is essential for the development of pathogenic Th17 cells and innate lymphoid cells. They also showed that RORγt activity can be inhibited by small molecule compounds that could be developed into drugs, and that these compounds are effective in animal models of autoimmune diseases.

This discovery opens up the opportunity to correct the imbalance in pathogenic T cells and regulatory T cells in autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Success in this endeavour will dramatically improve the quality of life for patients suffering from autoimmune disease.

Funding for the project was led by BioMotiv, with additional investment from the NYU Innovation Venture Fund. The objective of the company is to achieve proof of concept in psoriasis with an orally available inhibitor in 2016. BioMotiv are advancing a portfolio of discoveries into new medicines through an innovative, mission-driven model that efficiently aligns capital and collaborations for the benefit of inventors and investors, and ultimately physicians and patients.

The company relies upon the expertise of Dr. Mick Hunter and Dr. Roy Pettipher, experienced Senior Scientific Advisers.  Key biology and medical collaborations have been established with Oxford University and with the Littman laboratory at NYU. These provide access to world-class scientific expertise in both RORγt inhibitors and in innate immunity.

Orca Pharmaceuticals is chaired by Dr David U’Prichard who is Chief Scientific Officer of BioMotiv and has held senior leadership roles in the pharmaceutical industry including being Director of R&D at Smith-Kline Beecham.