Ex-Jazz, Sunesis exec Swisher takes over at NodThera

Dan Swisher
Dan Swisher via LinkedIn

Anglo-US biotech NodThera has named former Jazz Pharma executive Dan Swisher as its new chief executive, replacing Alan Watt, who will take on the dual roles of president and chief scientific officer.

Swisher spent five and a half years at Jazz as president and chief operating officer before announcing his retirement from the role last year, and prior to that spent nearly 16 years as CEO of Sunesis Pharma, which merged with Viracta Therapeutics in 2021.

He takes over at NodThera shortly after the company reported positive results from a phase 1b/2a clinical trial of NT-0796 – its oral, brain-penetrant NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor – in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

NLRP3 inflammasomes are protein complexes that form part of the body’s natural defence against pathogens, with potential utility across a broad range of central nervous system, liver, kidney, and cardiometabolic diseases.

In its recent clinical trial, NT-0796 was shown to reduce neuroinflammatory and inflammatory biomarkers in the cerebrospinal fluid of Parkinson’s patients to the levels found in healthy elderly controls over a 28-day period.

In addition, another preclinical study of the drug found that NT-0796 and another NLRP3 inhibitor codenamed NT-0249 were as effective at inducing weight loss in obese mice as Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 agonist Wegovy (semaglutide), whilst also reducing inflammatory biomarkers associated with cardiovascular disease.

NodThera has said the weight loss seems to be additive with GLP-1 drugs, so its drugs could potentially have a role as combination therapy for overweight/obesity. It is currently running a phase 2a study in obese subjects with raised cardiovascular risk.

“Dan is an accomplished, results-driven leader with a proven track record in developing and commercialising novel therapeutics and building strong, successful businesses,” said NodThera’s chair, Don Nicholson.

“We look forward to drawing on his deep understanding of the biopharmaceutical and financial markets, as well as his substantial experience in advancing clinical-stage assets towards commercialisation, as we progress our broad pipeline of NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitors.”

NLRP3 has also attracted the attention of other companies, including Novo Nordisk, which paid $70 million upfront last year for exclusive rights to Ventus Therapeutics’ candidate VENT-01, in a deal whose total value could top $700 million.

NodThera’s candidate has a key difference, however, as it enters the CNS, whereas VENT-01 only acts on the periphery and is being directed at diseases like non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases such as metabolic dysfunction-associated steatohepatitis (MASH) and chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Other companies working in the category NLRP3, meanwhile, include Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, Novartis, Zydus, and Cerevance.

Swisher said that NodThera is leading the NLRP3 inflammasome space and is “setting the tone for the field.” He added: “NodThera has the potential to drive a positive and meaningful difference to the lives of patients suffering with obesity, cardiometabolic, and neurodegenerative diseases.”