Kinase inhibitor specialist Kinnate launches Shanghai subsidiary with $35M to market its programs in China
A little more than five months after going public with a $276 million IPO, Kinnate Biopharma is back raising money — this time for a new subsidiary launching in China.
The yet-to-be named company is launching Thursday with a $35 million Series A round, Kinnate said, and it will be a joint venture with some of Kinnate’s previous investors. OrbiMed Asia Partners, OrbiMed Private Investments and Foresite Capital are all helping establish the company, with Kinnate taking the role as majority stakeholder.
Headquartered in Shanghai, the newco will focus on marketing Kinnate’s small molecule kinase inhibitors in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Wenn Sun, the founder and president of the genomic data company Precision Medicine Asia, has been appointed as executive chair.
CEO Nima Farzan told Endpoints News that Kinnate decided to set up a whole new company for this effort, rather than market the drugs themselves at Kinnate, because of their previous dealings with OrbiMed. The connections gained there enabled the launch of an entity that can more closely focus on the more unique Chinese market.
“There’s different rates of cancer in different populations; for example, China has a very substantial number of lung cancer epidemiology,” Farzan told Endpoints. “It’s not necessarily a different type of cancer, they just have more lung cancer.”
Kinnate has yet to hit the clinic for any of its programs, though they’re on track to file an IND for their lead RAF inhibitor sometime before the end of June. The new joint venture is expected to put this program, dubbed KIN-2787, at the top of its to-do list for Chinese commercialization, much like Kinnate itself is doing globally.
With regards to this program, Farzan said it would be targeting the Class II and III BRAF mutations typically presenting more frequently in lung cancers. RAF inhibitors targeting Class I mutations generally skew more toward melanoma, which are more prevalent in the US and already have seen approved drugs. There aren’t any drugs approved for the latter mutation type, however.
KIN-2787 is being developed for both lung cancer and melanoma, as well as other solid tumors, and preclinical data will be presented next month as ASCO. If everything goes well with the IND, Kinnate says it’s planning to launch a Phase I study in patients with advanced or metastatic solid tumors harboring BRAF gene alterations this year, evaluating the candidate as a monotherapy.
The subsidiary will also focus on marketing another Kinnate program in greater China, an FGFR inhibitor candidate called KIN-3248. This program is being developed to treat intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, a cancer of the bile ducts in the liver, and urothelial carcinoma, a cancer of the bladder lining.
Farzan noted that China has not approved any FGFR inhibitors and hopes the Kinnate subsidiary can pursue first-line treatment with KIN-3248.
There’s one other unnamed Kinnate candidate involved where the newco will have an exclusive license for the region. The company will also be able to develop other programs from the Kinnate pipeline in the area, as well as candidates from other companies in China and elsewhere.
Thursday’s launch is a step Farzan decided to take even though none of Kinnate’s programs have been tested in humans. But he said he’s confident in the candidates because the modalities and targets have been highly validated with other drugs.
“When you look at BRAF mutations, these are clear oncogenic drivers and drugs that have been effective against these mutations have shown clear clinical advantages,” Farzan said. “When you look at FGFR, similarly validated target, there’s already licensed drugs protective against that target … and then the preclinical data that we’ve generated does seem to be, when you look at other drugs in this class, to be relatively predictive.”