Art Krieg’s Checkmate executes a snappy 1-2 biotech gambit — big crossover followed by an instant IPO
Just as expected, Checkmate’s $85 million venture raise a few weeks ago was a prequel to the latest biotech IPO to hit the queue on Wall Street.
The company, founded by Checkmate CSO Art Krieg, penciled in a $75 million raise this time, but likely has its sights set on a much larger sum — in keeping with the upsizing now characteristic of the biotech class.
Now in mid-stage development after a 5-year leadup, the company is hyper-focused on one drug: CMP-001, which contains a CpG-A oligonucleotide that activates the TLR9 pathway to kick up an innate immune response to cancer.
Krieg, who helped blaze the pathway, believes that injecting the drug into a tumor will trigger a new T cell attack against that and other tumors in the body, shifting the tumor microenvironment in a way that activates the immune system. The company’s approach is to partner up with a PD-1 — in this case, Opdivo and Keytruda — and set out to prove that they can successfully treat a significant minority of patients who didn’t respond to the first round of checkpoint therapy.
In a trial, researchers reported a 25% overall response rate, though Checkmate beefed that up to 28% by including post-progression responders in the S-1. They also backed another Phase III that tried the drug on first-line melanoma patients. And they’ll need to run another combo trial to take a full dataset to the FDA.
Krieg has kept 5.6% of the shares in the company, which is helmed by CEO Barry Labinger. Both earned a total of a little more than $500,000 last year, based on income largely derived from their salaries.
Sofinnova and venBio are the 2 big investors here, each with 21.1% of the equity, followed by Novo Holdings at 10.2% and Longitude Venture Partners at 8.9%.