Atlas, F-Prime launch K36 Therapeutics to advance oncology molecule for elusive epigenetic target
After being in stealth for nearly 11 months, a new biotech has made itself known, complete with an influx of cash from some big-name investors.
K36 Therapeutics, an oncology biotech out of Cambridge, MA, emerged from stealth this morning — announcing a long-finished $30M Series A co-led by F-Prime Capital, Atlas Venture and global investment firm Eight Roads Ventures.
K36 CEO Terry Connolly told Endpoints News that the series was actually closed back in February — and is now just being announced. Connolly said that he expects the funding to get K36 through proof-of-concept studies and hopefully push the candidate to the IND phase, which the biotech plans to file by the end of June next year.
If more funding is needed, K36 will have those discussions at that time — but in the meantime, $30 million is enough, according to Connolly.
With only 5 employees, K36 only has one drug it’s focusing on: KTX-1001, which the company in-licensed from Novartis. That drug targets the histone methyltransferase (HMT) MMSET, looking at patients with multiple myeloma.
Connolly told Endpoints that he was employee No. 1 in mid-February.
He said what drew him to K36 was the target. Connolly knew MMSET from his time at Celgene, where he spent eight years before moving on to Dragonfly Therapeutics and then to K36. Celgene was known for its multiple myeloma drugs Remicade and Pomalyst, and also worked closely with the biotech Epizyme on a series of methyltransferase inhibitors.
“And it’s really just one of those holy grail targets for multiple myeloma, where people have been trying to drug it for a couple of decades and no one has been successful,” Connolly said in an interview. “So when I learned that there was a molecule that was available for licensing, and this company was going to in-license the molecule and be the first to take a select MMSET inhibitor into the clinic, I wanted to be a part of that.”
The company’s current end goal is getting an IND submitted. After that point, K36 will start looking at other programs, but not before, Connolly said.
Alongside leaving stealth and announcing its raise, K36 also announced a new addition to its board: Lori Kunkel, a former acting CMO at Loxo Oncology and currently a member of the board of directors at Nurix.
The drug is the newest candidate in a long line of drugs with epigenetic targets — and while some have worked, many of the drugs have not had as much efficacy as hoped. It is in the same class of drugs as Epizyme’s tazemetostat, a methyltransferase inhibitor which got approved for its second indication last year in follicular lymphoma.