Brian Kim, MD: Pushing Dermatology Forward and Alys Pharmaceuticals

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Kim discusses the state of dermatology innovation and applied care, as well as his involvement in a new company in the space.

As Brian S. Kim, MD, previously explained to HCPLive, many of his and his peers’ pharmacologic breakthroughs in dermatology have centered around the concept of improving patient quality of life—a factor of care that he contends is something of a North star for the field itself.

In the second segment of an interview with HCPLive during the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) 2024 Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA, this week, Kim expanded on dermatology’s current inflection point: a moment when novel therapies and targeted care strategies are reaching practices more frequently than ever, and the research industry have an opportunity to continue expanding or refine the agents accelerating through the pipeline.

Kim, vice char of research at Mount Sinai West and director of the Mark Lebwohl Center for Neuroinflammation and Sensation, doesn’t see it as a choice between the two opportunities.

“I feel that if we can innovate, everything follows,” Kim said. “It's kind of the way we think of technology itself, with AI and such. There are going to be new platforms. Science is moving much faster. Less of the pie of science is science itself now. A lot of it is engineering.”

Kim likened the state of the field to building a bridge: once one identifies it as a want or need and secures support, it can be done confidently. The rapid acceleration of innovation will continue to improve the “bridges” of the future without “engineers” having to uncover how themselves. What Kim believes needs to be uncovered is the true nature and characteristics of skin diseases still not adequately treated.

“Because you can't make a drug for a disease that doesn't exist, or that which you don't think exists,” Kim said. “And we've seen that with itch. Prurigo nodularis initially was, 'What is that? Is it even a disease?' Now I see posters, and the words 'prurigo nodularis' all over this conference. I think we're going to march down a number of diseases that way. And the faster we can do that, the more we can align to therapeutics to aim at these diseases.”

Kim additionally discussed the very recent launch of Alys Pharmaceuticals, an immune-dermatology drug development company that which he serves a role on as a key dermatology and scientific expert. Kim said his interest in the company was borne from the trend of decreasingly prevalent dermatology-centric drug developers in the space—many have “rallied around an asset and then start to catch up” to dermatology.

“This company, we'll say it's very science-centric, it's expertise-centric, it's technology-forward and it's very disease-oriented,” Kim said. “What we're doing is in a very prospective way aligning all those things across diseases—whether it's atopic dermatitis, urticaria, vitiligo, alopecia—do that from the outset rather than back into it.”

Aldys currently lists a dozen-plus targeted Individual New Drug (IND) application dates for therapies in development across the spectrum of common skin diseases.

You know, I've been in the dermatology space for a long time. Unlike other specialties, where a lot of pharmaceutical companies just own a whole specialty. That has not been the history of dermatology. So for instance, you'll get a drug like Enbrel or Humira. And then the company will rally around that. You'll get a drug like Opzelura from a company that was more oncology and now has to form dermatology around that. Pfizer acquires crisaborole, and then forms dermatology around that. What I have noticed is a lot of pharmaceutical companies are not dermatology companies—and I'm not saying they have to be, but they rally around an asset and then start to catch up to dermatology. With so many targeted therapies now reaching cross-specialty indications due to consistent inflammatory pathways involved with disease, he has hope targeting skin disease first can lead to more opportunities to treat—rather than the other way around.

“If you solve diseases like vitiligo or alopecia, you might end up informing or even inadvertently solving IBD, maybe type 1 diabetes, who knows,” Kim said. “By developing a great drug for itch, it may inadvertently be a great drug for interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic cough. I think the opportunity could be much greater than dermatology, but what better thing than to use dermatology as a platform for the greater field of medicine as well.”