Well-connected, Gilead-backed biotech gets another stack of cash to pursue CAR-Ts for autoimmune disease
Almost exactly two years after its debut at the 2020 JP Morgan confab — and on the heels of a new partnership with the gene editing experts at Intellia — a Gilead-backed, autoimmune disease-focused startup has returned to the well with a clearer outline of just what it plans to do with its CAR-T platform.
Kyverna brought in $85 million in its oversubscribed Series B, the company announced Wednesday. Northpond Ventures led the round, and Westlake Village BioPartners, Vida Ventures, Gilead and Intellia all contributed as well.
The money will go toward advancing lead candidate KYV-101, an autologous anti-CD19 CAR-T therapy targeting autoimmune diseases such as lupus nephritis, systemic sclerosis and inflammatory myopathies. The therapy is headed to clinical development, if all goes according to plan, in the first half of this year.
Having licensed the CD19 construct from the NIH, the biotech holds the rights to use it also in allogeneic candidates.
Kynerva is developing CAR-T cell therapies from both autologous and allogeneic sources, as well as a synthetic version of Tregs. The company raised $25 million in a Series A round back in 2020. Gilead was a key backer in that round, and inked a license agreement to develop engineered T cell therapies based on its Treg platform and synNotch technology from Kite, the Gilead subsidiary. Under that deal, Kyverna took on the research and clinical duties through proof-of-concept.
The funds from the Series B will also help fuel the development of KYV-201, for which Intellia and Kyverna have an exclusive partnership. One of the leading gene editing companies, Intellia made noise in September when the FDA accepted its IND application for the experimental acute myeloid leukemia treatment NTLA-5001. The deal, announced just a few weeks ago, gives Kyverna exclusive rights to Intellia’s allogeneic cell engineering platform to develop KYV-201. In exchange, Intellia gets an equity stake and certain developmental and commercial milestones, as well as royalties on future sales.
Intellia also has an option to develop and commercialize KYV-201; in that case, it would fork over an opt-in fee and share half the development costs and future sales revenue.
“One thing that drew me to Kyverna is the desire to be there from the very beginning, be involved in what can be a revolution in the way we treat patients with autoimmune disease,” CEO Dominic Borie said in an interview with Endpoints News. “Cell therapy is going to be transformational for our patients. I think it’s very exciting to be leading a company that is focused 100% on that.”
Just a few months ago, Kyverna landed former Genentech CEO Ian Clark as its new chair of the board of directors, and Karen Walker as chief technology officer. As it goes forward in hiring more employees to keep up with the growth taking shape, Borie said that a team will be built out under Walker.
“She will be instrumental in developing our manufacturing capabilities,” he said. “We’ll build under her a very strong team that will complement our R&D operations.”
Borie said that in addition to the partnerships with Gilead and Intellia, Kyverna is working toward adding even more “in both directions,” he said.
As part of the financing, Northpond director Shaan Gandhi and RTW’s Chris Liu will join as Kyverna’s board members and observers, respectively.
“When it comes to treating autoimmune diseases, the industry has reached a scientific tipping point,” Gandhi said. “The cell therapies in Kyverna’s pipeline hold significant promise for modulating the immune system in such a way as to achieve optimal and long-lasting disease control.”