Dave Simpson, Iksuda

A Cell­tri­on-backed biotech is de­vel­op­ing 'tun­able' con­ju­gates to crack sol­id tu­mors — and it has eyes on the clin­ic

The next gen­er­a­tion of an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates has be­come a big area of fo­cus in on­col­o­gy ven­ture cap­i­tal, with a slate of biotechs ar­gu­ing they have the best link­ers and pay­loads to get the job done. Now, an out­fit backed by Ko­re­an gi­ant Cell­tri­on is ready to test its own mix in the clin­ic.

New­cas­tle, UK-based Ik­su­da Ther­a­peu­tics has closed a $47 mil­lion fi­nanc­ing round, which the biotech will use to walk its pipeline of an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates in­to the clin­ic, the com­pa­ny said Sun­day. The round was led by Ko­rea’s Mi­rae Cap­i­tal with par­tic­i­pa­tion from Cell­tri­on.

Ik­su­da’s lead pre-clin­i­cal can­di­date is IKS03, a CD19-tar­get­ed ADC for B-cell can­cers, the com­pa­ny said. The new round of fund­ing will al­low Ik­su­da to put that can­di­date in­to Phase I hu­man tri­als as well as steer two oth­er can­di­dates — IKS04 and IKS012 — to­ward IND fil­ing.

The biotech is tak­ing aim specif­i­cal­ly at pa­tients with hard-to-treat tu­mors or those at high risk of re­lapse, Ik­su­da said. To get there, Ik­su­da will re­ly on its pro­pri­etary link­er — a big point of con­test among the ma­jor ADC play­ers — as well as its tu­mor-ac­ti­vat­ed, pro­drug “pay­loads” which came over as part of a li­cens­ing deal with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Göt­tin­gen signed in Oc­to­ber.

Those pay­loads are pro­tein alky­lat­ing and “tun­able,” of­fer­ing a nov­el path to tar­get­ing tu­mors with a greater abil­i­ty to beat out re­sis­tance, Ik­su­da said. For Cell­tri­on, that fo­cus on go­ing af­ter the hard­est-to-hit tu­mor types was a big draw.

Woosung Kee

“By pur­su­ing tu­mours that are re­sis­tant to cur­rent treat­ment ap­proach­es, Ik­su­da is ex­tend­ing the bound­aries of ADC tech­nol­o­gy, and con­se­quent­ly the treat­ment op­tions for pa­tients,” Cell­tri­on CEO Woosung Kee said in a state­ment. “This ide­al­ly com­ple­ments Cell­tri­on’s dri­ve to pi­o­neer un­chart­ed ar­eas of in­no­v­a­tive ther­a­pies, in­cor­po­rat­ing unique and suc­cess­ful next-gen­er­a­tional ap­proach­es that pro­mote health and wel­fare glob­al­ly. ”

In the short term, Ik­su­da will fo­cus on get­ting IKS03 in­to game shape for the clin­ic. The ADC tar­gets CD19 and de­liv­ers a pro­drug dubbed pyrroloben­zo­di­azepine, which the biotech li­censed from LegoChem Bio­sciences. The com­pa­ny is plot­ting an IND in Q4 with an ini­tial read­out by Q3 2022.

So-called “third-gen” AD­Cs have be­come a hot area of in­vest­ment as bio­phar­ma looks for more op­tions to crack the sol­id tu­mor puz­zle. A wave of in­vest­ment has fol­lowed some ma­jor suc­cess­es, in­clud­ing the ap­proval of As­traZeneca’s HER2-tar­get­ed ADC En­her­tu.

“The fund­ing not on­ly re­flects the po­ten­tial of our tech­nolo­gies, but al­so the un­matched ex­per­tise of the Ik­su­da team,” CEO Dave Simp­son said in a state­ment. “We are grate­ful for the sup­port of this group of in­vestors and de­light­ed to wel­come them to the team.”

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) with reporters in the Senate Subway (Graeme Sloan/Sipa via AP Images)

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Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Credit: Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

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