San Diego Business Journal

San Diego-based Kinnate, a precision oncology company developing novel kinase inhibitors, has raised $98 Million for its Series C funding round.

Headquartered in Del Mar, Kinnate is researching the viability of three potential cancer therapies, leaning on its expertise in a field of drugs called kinase inhibitors.

Founded in 2018 by Steve Kaldor and Eric Murphy with the aim of developing precision oncology drugs. Its goal is to develop first-in-class small molecule therapies targeting kinases for genetically defined and hard-to-treat cancers.

Clinical Trials Planned

The company’s pipeline portfolio includes a RAF dimer inhibitor targeting Class II and III mutations, an FGFR2/3 inhibitor and a CDK12 inhibitor

The company’s current portfolio includes a RAF dimer inhibitor targeting Class II and III mutations and an FGFR2/3 inhibitor. The company is also advancing a number of other programs, including a CDK12 inhibitor, which is a potentially first-in-class candidate.

“In just over two years, Kinnate has built a proprietary pipeline of kinase inhibitors from the ground up, and this significant financing positions us to advance at least one of our lead product candidates into clinical development in the first half of next year,” said Nima Farzan, CEO of Kinnate.

RA Capital Management led the financing with participation by Viking Global Investors, Venrock Healthcare Capital Partners, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Janus Henderson Investors, among several others.

The new infused funding will be used to scale programs focused on advancing the company’s portfolio of kinase inhibitors into clinical testing next year, according to the company.

Precision Medicine

Kinnate plans to start testing its RAF inhibitor in tumor types known to acquire class II and III BRAF mutations, such as NSCLC, colorectal cancer, and melanoma. But, eventually, the company hopes to take a tumor-agnostic approach and investigate the drug’s activity in a variety of cancers with RAF mutations.

“With less than 10 percent of cancer patients benefiting from precision therapies, there remains a huge unmet medical need for genetically targeted medicines,” said Farzan. “Our focused portfolio of best-in-class and first-in-class small-molecule candidates targeting kinases aims to deliver better outcomes by providing the right drug to the right patient.”

Kinnate also recently unveiled an earlier-stage program of a first-in-class CDK12 inhibitor, which it will study in ovarian cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, and metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer characterized by mutations in DNA damage repair genes, either alone or potentially in combination with a PARP inhibitor or an immune checkpoint inhibitor.

Investors are backing Kinnate thanks to its already accomplished team and its low-risk technology, said Farzan.

“Kinnate has built unparalleled strength in structure-based drug design coupled with a deep understanding of the genetic mutations driving cancer progression through its internal expertise and scientific collaborations,” said Keith Flaherty, director of clinical research at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. “Nima’s demonstrated leadership in building innovative science-focused commercial organizations will add invaluable experience to the Kinnate team as they continue to accelerate their portfolio of precision medicines towards clinical testing.”

New CEO

In May this year, Nima Farzan stepped up as new CEO, Kaldor now serves as chairman. At PaxVax, Farzan successfully led a team of 250 people through a number of commercial product launches and negotiated the acquisition of the company by Emergent BioSolutions in 2018. Emergent BioSolutions acquired PaxVax for $270 million in a cash strategic buyout.

The company has also recently hired several senior executives including Mark Meltz chief operating officer and general counsel, Richard Williams chief medical officer and Robert Kania vice president of Drug Discovery earlier this year.

Looking ahead, the company said the capital will allow the team to continue to work on our research pipelines, its third program as well as bring new drug candidates targeting other early diseases. The company’s two targeted drug candidates are expected to enter clinical trials next year.

“Hopefully, all of them can get approved, but we all know that jump-to-jump development has a high failure rate. We feel confident between those in the pipeline and other earlier stage programs that we have and we believe that we will  ultimately be successful in bringing each one into two dimensions.”

Kinnate employs 25 local staffers and plans to double its headcount over the 12 months.

Last year, Kinnate closed a $74.5 million Series B financing. In 2018, it raised $22 million in a series A funding round led by Foresite Capital. In total, the company has raised roughly $195 million to date.

“We are proud to support the Kinnate team and see tremendous potential for their lead programs to significantly increase the number of people who could benefit from targeted precision oncology therapeutics,” said Peter Kolchinsky, managing partner at RA Capital Management.