Innate Immunity: From Sensors to Response

The innate immune system provides a first line of defense. Innate immune pathways involve sensors and receptors that perceive stimuli such as viral, fungal and bacterial threats or self-damage and include several families:

  • Intracellular sensors & receptors: NOD-like receptors (NLRs), cytosolic DNA sensors and Rig1‑like receptors (RLRs).
  • Cell-surface transmembrane proteins: Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and C-type lectin receptors.

When triggered, these sensors and receptors direct a specific signaling response that results in local cell death, innate immune cell recruitment and modulation of the adaptive immune system.



An important role of the innate immune system in many diseases

Despite their important role in defense, dysfunctions in innate immune pathways are central to a range of human diseases including:

  • Rare autoimmune diseases driven by innate immune proteins. Defects in specific innate immune pathways are known to cause rare autoimmune diseases.
  • Excessive innate immune signaling in prevalent diseases. Many autoimmune diseases, fibrotic and neurodegenerative diseases are increasingly linked to hyperactivation of these pathways
  • Innate immunity in cancer. Innate immunity is an important defense for cancer and activation of these pathways has potential in oncology applications.

Inflammasome and nucleic acid sensing pathways, in particular, are strongly associated with disease pathogenesis and our focus at Ventus. We are using our structural immunology platform together with tissue- and cell-specific biological insights from the laboratories of our academic founders and advisors to reveal how specific targets are likely to translate for various disease applications.