Engineering a new class of cell therapy for autoimmune diseases, Kyverna Therapeutics (Kyverna) announced it raised $25 million in a Series A financing from a group of investors, including prominent biotech Gilead. Proceeds will be used to advance their therapeutic strategy combining advanced T cell engineering and synthetic biology technologies to suppress and eliminate autoreactive immune cells at the root cause of inflammatory disease.
TrialSite News offers a brief breakdown of Kyverna Therapeutics and their approach to addressing autoimmune diseases.
How Many Employees
TrialSite News estimates between 10 and 15 but that will of course rise with the financing and Gilead capital infusion.
Who is Senior Management?
· Dominic Borie, MD, PhD, CEO: appointed as part of the financing
· Jeffrey Greve, CSO (Greve was a founder of Delinia which Celgene acquired)
Who are the Investors?
· Gilead Sciences (GILD)
· Vida Ventures
· Westlake Village BioPartners
What Problem are they Seeking to Solve?
Autoimmune diseases result from a failure of the immune system to distinguish self from non-self, caused by autoreactive B cells and T cells attacking the body’s own tissues. Kyverna’s therapeutic strategy combines advanced T cell engineering and synthetic biology technologies to suppress and eliminate these autoreactive immune cells at the cause of inflammatory disease.
What does the Company do?
The company doesn’t share much on its website and there is little public information about their platform. However, it was disclosed that their “synthetic Treg” platform and “synNotch™ technology” from Gilead (Kite Pharma acquisition) would be accessible to Kyverna as part of the deal. At a high level, they are tapping into and harnessing the potential of cell therapy to change the course of disease and in the process develop a new class of therapies for serious autoimmune diseases. As CEO Dominic Borie stated, these are exciting times where “a new modality has the potential to become the backbone of treatment for a variety of severe immune-related diseases.”
What is the SynNotch technology platform based on?
Kyverna will exploit the SynNotch technology platform has a core part of this deal. But what is this? Apparently, it was a technology developed out of the labs of Dr. Wendell Lim at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). A venture called Cell Design Labs was formed to capitalize on this technology and approach to develop cell-based therapies to exploit the UCSF research. Cell Design Labs was seeking to develop anticancer therapies and was purchased by Gilead for up to $567 million.
This is based on SynNotch, a synthetic Notch receptor. Discovered in 1914, 3Notch is a well-recognized receptor available in all multicellular organisms. Notch functions in cell communication with both external and internal functionality. The Notch receptor outside the cell binds a molecular partner in a neighboring cell. This interaction causes the Notch receptor to be physically linked with the neighbor cell and allows the internal portion of Notch to move into the nucleus where it activates various genes.
By expressing synNotch in T cells, a programmable immune cell can be created—and the synNotch receptor conveys a sensor functionality to T cells, which organically roam around the body in search of targets. Once a reprogrammed cell binds to its intended target (such as a cancer cell), it may trigger specific molecular activities such as producing anticancer defenses.
Note that the SynNotch system was leveraged by Lim’s UCSF lab to program groups of cells to self-organize into a two-layered sphere. Their work was published in Science in 2018 where they demonstrated self-assembly of multiple tissue patterns and the ability of their “spheroids” to self-repair when damaged.
The Gilead Deal
As part of the financing, Kyverna had the opportunity to enter into a strategic collaboration and license agreement with Gilead to develop engineered T cell therapies for the treatment of autoimmune disease based on Kyverna’s synthetic Treg platform and synNotch™ technology from Kite, a Gilead company. In this deal, Kyverna is responsible for conducting research activities and initial clinical studies through proof-of-concept and Gilead will be granted an option, upon the exercise of which Gilead will be solely responsible for further clinical development and commercialization efforts for these programs.
What are the Payment Terms for Kyverna?
Upfront payment of $17.5 million and up to $570 million in development and commercialization milestones. Note, Kyverna will also continue to advance its platform and develop proprietary programs beyond the Gilead collaboration.
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