Daniel Webster, dWeb.News Publisher
GALWAY, Ireland & SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–ONK Therapeutics, an innovative NK cell therapy platform company, today announced the closing of its $21.5 million Series A financing, led by current investors Acorn Bioventures and ALSHC, who were joined by Cormorant Asset Management.
The financing will enable ONK to maintain its strong momentum as it advances pre-clinical programs through comprehensive IND-enabling studies, including in-vivo proof-of-concept models across multiple programs. ONK will continue to make progress towards a GMP manufacturing capability as it optimizes its cell engineering platform and process design.
OnK currently has three programs that are in pre-clinical development for both solid and hematological tumors. The Company is a pioneer in optimally engineered natural killer cell (NK) therapies. It employs a variety of engineering strategies to maximize cytotoxic potential, metabolic well-being, persistence, and reduce exhaustion of NK cells within the tumor microenvironment. The Company is able to make unique gene edits that enable this.
ONK’s comprehensive owned and exclusively licensed patent estate covers CISH knockout (KO) in the field of human NK cells for the treatment of cancer, irrespective of the NK cell source; the expression of high affinity, membrane bound, TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand variants (TRAILv); and the deletion of checkpoint receptors in NK cells, including extracellular proteins CD96, TIGIT, Siglec-7 and PD-1.
These different strategies are being employed across the ONK pre-clinical product portfolio, including:
ONKT102, the Company’s lead program, an optimized-affinity CD38 CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) NK cell therapy being developed for the treatment of patients with relapsed refractory multiple myeloma
ONKT104, a CLL-1 CAR-NKprogram targeting AML stem cells, which is advancing through later stages of its pre-clinical evaluation
ONKT103, which is being optimized to treat solid tumors such as Ovarian, Breast and Non- Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) and is based on tumor associated MUC-1 targeting CAR NK cells
In addition, these programs will explore incorporating further novel gene edits, such as CISH KO and TRAIL variants targeting DR5 or DR4.
ONK has also recently started two programs focused on the potential of highly functional CISH KO NK cells, namely:
ONKT105, exploring CISH KO cord bloodderived NK cells
ONKT106, exploring CISH KO iPSC derived NK cells
The Company also continues to make significant progress on the manufacturing front, optimizing its process development, gene editing capability, efficient expansion techniques and its cryopreservation capability. These programs will help support manufacturing in ONK’s efforts to manufacture large quantities of NK cells therapy batches using GMP manufacturing.
Chris Nowers is ONK Therapeutics CEO. He said that they are grateful to all of their investors and were pleased to welcome Andy Phillips and Cormorant Asset Management to the Board. Together, they will help us achieve our goal of optimally engineering off-the-shelf NK cell therapies that could potentially cure cancer patients. We will be able to carry out our strategic plan, which includes funding program advancement, organizational development, and company expansion. Within the next 18 months, we have the potential for multiple IND approvals to enable our evolution into a clinical-stage company.”
Commenting on the investment, Isaac Manke, Ph.D., Partner at Acorn Bioventures said, “Over the 12 months of our investment, ONK Therapeutics has made excellent progress in advancing both its innovative next-generation NK cell therapy platform and across its exciting portfolio of pre-clinical assets. We are happy to continue our support for ONK and have introduced Cormorant Asset Management to the group. We are pleased to join the current investor groups in financing ONK as it looks forward to important proof of principle in vivo data and additional value catalyzing milestones.”
About ONK Therapeutics – www.onktherapeutics.com
ONK Therapeutics is an innovative cell therapy company dedicated to developing the next generation of off-the-shelf, optimally engineered natural killer (NK) cell therapies targeting both hematological malignancies and solid tumors.
The Company was founded in 2015, by Prof. Michael O’Dwyer MD, of NUI Galway, an expert in translational multiple myeloma research, the tumor microenvironment, and exploitation of NK cells as cellular immunotherapy. The Company’s proprietary, off-the-shelf cell-therapy platform is based on NK cells engineered to express a specific tumor-antigen-targeted CAR. However, they have also undergone other gene edits (e.g. CISH KO and CD38 KO) and additional construct features including a TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand variant (TRAILv) targeting the death receptor pathway via DR4 or DR5. This innovative approach is designed to maximize the cytotoxic potency, metabolic health, and persistence of engineered NK cells.
ONK’s current pre-clinical pipeline comprises three programs:
ONKT102 combines an optimized affinity CD38 CAR NK productcandidate that incorporates a CD38 KO, intended for the treatmentof patients with relapsed/refractory multiplemyeloma
ONKT103 combines a TA-MUC1CAR NK product candidate, for the treatment of solid tumors
ONKT104 combines a CLL-1 CAR NK product candidate, for the treatmentof AML
In addition, these programs will explore incorporating further novel gene edits, such as CISH KO and TRAIL variants targeting DR5 and DR4.
ONK has also initiated two programs focused on the potential of highly functional CISH KO NK cells, namely:
ONKT105, exploring CISH KO cord bloodderived NK cells
ONKT106, exploring CISH KO iPSC derivedNK cells
ONK has an exclusive global patent license agreement with Australia’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) providing the Company with rights to CISH knockout (KO) in the field of human NK cells for the treatment of cancer, irrespective of the NK cell source. CISH KO, a highly-researched edit in NK cell cells, has been granted the first US patent.
ONK Therapeutics has its headquarters in Galway, Ireland, a med-tech center, and a US subsidiary, ONK Therapeutics, Inc., which is based at JLabs@ San Diego. Acorn Bioventures and Cormorant Asset Management are the shareholders. Enterprise Ireland is the principal shareholder.
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