Kira and its complement-target inhibitors plot run to the clinic with new investor cash just months after uncloaking
A couple months after emerging from stealth, Kira Pharmaceuticals has reeled in its largest venture round yet to fund a dash to the clinic.
The startup, co-founded back in 2017 by University of Pennsylvania professor Wenchao Song, hooked $53.5 million in what it calls a “Series B+” financing. It burst onto the scene in November, with $18 million in Series A winnings and $28 million from a Series B raised in stealth. With former Sienna Biopharmaceuticals CEO Frederick Beddingfield at the helm, the team is on a mission to put three complement-targeted therapies in the clinic over the next 18 months.
“While the complement system has historically been difficult to target given its complexity, we believe our LOGIC drug discovery platform enables us to approach complement mediation in new and different ways, unlocking transformative therapies for patients,” Beddingfield said in a statement.
The complement cascade, a part of the innate immune system, is “great when it’s working well,” the CEO told Endpoints News in November. But dysregulation can lead to autoimmune disorders. Depending on that dysregulation, blocking certain parts of the pathways that activate the complement system can be “quite effective” in controlling disease, he added.
Kira’s lead candidate, P014, is designed to inhibit both upstream and downstream complement targets. It’s engineered with an extended half-life and potency, and has the potential to be self-administered at home. While the team is looking to improve on the standard of care in some diseases, Beddingfield told Endpoints in November that they’re more interested in treating diseases for which there are no complement drugs currently approved.
“Our bigger goal is to treat diseases where there’s really a completely unmet need,” he said.
The company is keeping mum about its other programs, which are “in development to treat a range of immune-inflammatory diseases and cancers in the US, Asia and other global markets,” according to its website. In addition to its Cambridge, MA headquarters, Kira boasts a Suzhou, China R&D center.
Prior to joining Kira, Beddingfield left his perch at Sienna in December 2019 — a few months after the biotech filed for bankruptcy. Sienna’s stock never quite recovered from the failure of its experimental acne drug SNA-001, which flopped in two separate trials testing its efficacy when managed by laser tech. The CEO was planning to take some time off when he got a call from Song — and the rest is history.
Once it lands in the clinic, Kira may have some catching up to do. Alexion snagged its second approval for the complement therapy Ultomiris last year, which is now OK’d to treat atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria.