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.”