Nima Farzan, Kinnate CEO

Kin­nate gets $98M Se­ries C to push pre­ci­sion on­col­o­gy drugs to the clin­ic

Less than a year af­ter bank­ing $74.5 mil­lion in a Se­ries B, San Diego-based Kin­nate Bio­phar­ma is fol­low­ing up with a Se­ries C to bring its pipeline of pre­ci­sion on­col­o­gy drugs to the clin­ic.

The two-year-old com­pa­ny just raised $98 mil­lion in a round led by RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, and is eye­ing INDs for its two lead pro­grams — ki­nase in­hibitors that tar­get BRAF, FGFR2 and FGFR3 mu­ta­tions. If all goes well in pre­clin­i­cal stud­ies, CEO Ni­ma Farzan ex­pects its BRAF pro­gram to en­ter Phase I in the first half of next year, with its FGFR pro­gram not far be­hind.

“A very small per­cent­age of pa­tients can re­spond over a long pe­ri­od of time … to a tar­get­ed ther­a­py,” Farzan told End­points News. “So we’re re­al­ly fo­cused on bring­ing drugs that ei­ther are go­ing af­ter known onco­genic dri­vers that cur­rent­ly aren’t tar­get­ed by drugs, or help­ing over­come those re­sis­tance mu­ta­tions.”

While there are cur­rent­ly FDA-ap­proved op­tions for pa­tients with Class I BRAF mu­ta­tions, Kin­nate saw an op­por­tu­ni­ty to de­vel­op in­hibitors tar­get­ing Class II and III mu­ta­tions. Kin­nate’s in­hibitors are de­signed to block BRAF pro­tein dimers. Right now, the com­pa­ny is fo­cus­ing on pa­tients with melanoma and non-small cell lung can­cer.

Kin­nate’s FGFR can­di­dates are de­signed to ad­dress mu­ta­tions in FGFR2 fu­sion gene-pos­i­tive in­tra­hep­at­ic cholan­gio­car­ci­no­ma and FGFR3-al­tered urothe­lial car­ci­no­ma. The com­pa­ny aims to over­come re­sis­tance to cur­rent FGFR drugs on the mar­ket.

“Over time, pa­tients de­vel­op re­sis­tance to these drugs through cer­tain mu­ta­tions in FGFR that makes the cur­rent drugs not ef­fec­tive,” Farzan said.

Kin­nate has set out to de­vel­op a drug that’s ef­fec­tive against the FGFR al­ter­ation, as well as the most com­mon re­sis­tant mu­ta­tions. Farzan sees the drug ini­tial­ly as a sec­ond-line treat­ment for those who have be­come re­sis­tant to cur­rent drugs, and even­tu­al­ly as a first-line treat­ment.

The com­pa­ny will al­so use Se­ries C funds to de­vel­op its CDK12 in­hibitor, though Farzan said it is “more dif­fi­cult to say” when that pro­gram will be ready for an IND.

The Se­ries C in­clud­ed new in­vestors Viking Glob­al In­vestors, Ven­rock Health­care Cap­i­tal Part­ners, Fi­deli­ty Man­age­ment & Re­search Com­pa­ny, LLC, Janus Hen­der­son In­vestors, Sur­vey­or Cap­i­tal, Box­er Cap­i­tal of Tavi­s­tock Group, Lo­gos Cap­i­tal, and an in­vest­ment fund as­so­ci­at­ed with SVB Leerink. Re­turn­ing in­vestors Fore­site Cap­i­tal, Or­biMed, Nex­tech In­vest, and Vi­da Ven­tures al­so backed the round.

“I re­al­ly do see this not as an as­set or two we are de­vel­op­ing, but as a com­pa­ny we are build­ing,” Farzan said.

The Pax­Vax vet spent sev­en years as pres­i­dent and CEO be­fore the com­pa­ny was bought by Emer­gent BioSo­lu­tions in 2018. In March, he took over for Kin­nate co-founder and for­mer CEO Stephen Kaldor.

Ap­proval of Kin­nate’s lead pro­grams “would con­tin­ue to demon­strate that tar­get­ed ther­a­pies are a sub­stan­tial ad­di­tion to the ar­ma­men­tar­i­um that physi­cians have to bat­tle can­cer. Can­cer is a … it’s kind of a nev­er-end­ing strug­gle,” Farzan said. “… It’s al­ways go­ing to try to de­vel­op mu­ta­tions and de­vel­op re­sis­tance, and so you have to con­stant­ly keep in­no­vat­ing.”

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'


Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.

Paul Grayson, Tentarix CEO (Versant)

Phar­ma vet­er­ans re­group with $50M and a plan to dis­cov­er new mul­ti-specifics

While a horde of drugmakers develops bispecific antibodies to more directly target tumor cells — there were about 100 programs in or nearing clinical trials back in May — a new company is emerging to go one step further.

On Thursday, Tentarix Biotherapeutics unveiled a $50 million Series A round to support its next-gen multi-specifics platform. While the field has largely focused on bispecifics, which engage two targets, Tentarix believes its multifunctional programs have the potential to be even more specific, since more conditions must be met for potent activity to occur.