At­las and Or­biMed back Boston's Kyn in $49M round to pur­sue im­munome­tab­o­lism ther­a­pies

Boston biotech Kyn Ther­a­peu­tics has raised $49 mil­lion in a Se­ries A round to ad­vance its im­munome­tab­o­lism ther­a­pies to treat can­cer.

The mon­ey comes from At­las Ven­ture and Or­biMed — both re­peat in­vestors who first fund­ed the com­pa­ny dur­ing its launch last March.

Mark Man­fre­di

Kyn is led by an At­las en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence Mark Man­fre­di, who was pre­vi­ous­ly chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer at Raze Ther­a­peu­tics (al­so an At­las-fund­ed start­up). Raze raised a $24 mil­lion Se­ries A in 2014, but the com­pa­ny ap­pears to have wound down pret­ty quick­ly. The web­site is no longer ac­tive, and Man­fre­di said Raze still has some as­sets and col­lab­o­ra­tions, but no longer em­ploys any­one. At­las’ Bruce Booth says the un­der­ly­ing can­cer me­tab­o­lism bi­ol­o­gy was too com­pli­cat­ed to war­rant fur­ther in­vest­ment. Be­fore Raze, Man­fre­di was VP of on­col­o­gy bi­ol­o­gy at Take­da.

Now as CEO of Kyn, Man­fre­di is once again lead­ing a com­pa­ny fo­cused on im­munome­tab­o­lism to treat can­cer, a grow­ing area of im­muno-on­col­o­gy. The field lever­ages meta­bol­ic path­ways and the bro­ken-down mol­e­cules that re­sult from me­tab­o­lism (called metabo­lites). Kyn has an undis­closed num­ber of pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams de­signed to re­verse the ef­fects of metabo­lites pro­mot­ed by can­cer cells.

First, the com­pa­ny is tar­get­ing the IDO and TDO path­ways. IDO and TDO are meta­bol­ic en­zymes over­ex­pressed in many can­cers that con­vert tryp­to­phan to kynure­nine. Kynure­nine ac­cu­mu­lates in and around the tu­mor where it en­ters im­mune cells and binds the aryl hy­dro­car­bon re­cep­tor. This trig­gers the broad sup­pres­sion of the im­mune sys­tem, Man­fre­di said.

Kyn’s plan is to de­grade kynure­nine and/or an­tag­o­nise the aryl hy­dro­car­bon re­cep­tor.

The IDO path­way is al­ready be­ing eyed up by oth­er com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing In­cyte, Bris­tol-My­ers, and NewLink Ge­net­ics. But Man­fre­di tells me he thinks it’s im­por­tant to tar­get TDO, as well.

“The in­hibitors out there on­ly in­hib­it IDO,” Man­fre­di said. “Some tu­mors ex­press IDO, but oth­ers ex­press TDO as well, which al­so pro­duces the sup­pres­sive metabo­lite kynure­nine. We think if we go af­ter that metabo­lite specif­i­cal­ly, it will be more ef­fec­tive.”

Kyn plans to test their prod­uct can­di­dates as sin­gle agents, as well as in com­bi­na­tion stud­ies with check­point in­hibitors.

Of the com­pa­ny’s new $49 mil­lion, $28 mil­lion is go­ing to fu­el these pro­grams. Man­fre­di said the com­pa­ny isn’t dis­clos­ing which can­cers it’s tack­ling.

The rest of the cash is go­ing to Kyn’s af­fil­i­ate called Ar­rys Ther­a­peu­tics, which has ex­clu­sive­ly con­tract­ed Kyn to de­vel­op ARY-007. This pro­gram does not tar­get IDO/TDO, but is still in the im­munome­tab­o­lism field. The prod­uct can­di­date blocks the EP4 re­cep­tor, which is in­volved in the prostaglandin E2 path­way. ARY-007 has al­ready shown fa­vor­able ther­a­peu­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics in hu­man tri­als for os­teoarthrit­ic pain, Man­fre­di said.

The com­pa­ny is jump­ing in­to Phase Ib stud­ies in 2018.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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FDA de­lays de­ci­sion on No­var­tis’ po­ten­tial block­buster MS drug, wip­ing away pri­or­i­ty re­view

So much for a speedy review.

In February, Novartis announced that an application for their much-touted multiple sclerosis drug ofatumumab had been accepted and, with the drug company cashing in on one of their priority review vouchers, the agency was due for a decision by June.

But with June less than 48 hours old, Novartis announced the agency has extended their review, pushing back the timeline for approval or rejection to September. The Swiss pharma filed the application in December, meaning their new schedule will be nearly in line with the standard 10-month window period had they not used the priority voucher.

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Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Bris­tol-My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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GSK presents case to ex­pand use of its lu­pus drug in pa­tients with kid­ney dis­ease, but the field is evolv­ing. How long will the mo­nop­oly last?

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

Lupus is a drug developer’s nightmare. In the last six decades, there has been just one FDA approval (Benlysta), with the field resembling a graveyard in recent years with a string of failures including UCB and Biogen’s late-stage flop, as well as defeats in Xencor and Sanofi’s programs. One of the main reasons the success has eluded researchers is because lupus, akin to cancer, is not just one disease — it really is a disease of many diseases, noted Al Roy, executive director of Lupus Clinical Investigators Network, an initiative of New York-based Lupus Research Alliance that claims it is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research, in an interview.

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na read­ies to en­ter PhI­II in Ju­ly, As­traZeneca not far be­hind; EU ready to ne­go­ti­ate vac­cine ac­cess with $2.7B fund

Moderna may soon add another first to the Covid-19 vaccine race.

In March, the mRNA biotech was the first company to put a Covid-19 vaccine into humans. Next month, they may become the first company to put their vaccine into the large, late-stage trials that are needed to prove whether the vaccine is effective.

In an interview with JAMA editor Howard Bauchner, NIAID chief Anthony Fauci said that a 30,000-person, Phase III trial for Moderna’s vaccine could start in July. The news comes a week after Moderna began a Phase II study that will enroll several hundred people.

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José Basel­ga finds promise in new class of RNA-mod­i­fy­ing can­cer tar­gets, lock­ing in 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams with $55M

Having dived early into some of the RNA breakthroughs of the last decades — betting on Moderna’s mRNA tech and teaming up with Silence on the siRNA front — AstraZeneca is jumping into a new arena: going after proteins that modify RNA.

Their partner of choice is Accent Therapeutics, which is receiving $55 million in upfront payment to steer a selected preclinical program through to the end of Phase I. After AstraZeneca takes over, the Lexington, MA-based startup has the option to co-develop and co-commercialize in the US — and collect up to $1.1 billion in milestones in the long run. The deal also covers two other potential drug candidates.

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