A developer of a new generation of antibody-drug conjugates, Iksuda Therapeutics, has completed a US $47 million (UK £34 million) financing round. The financing round was co-led by Mirae Asset Capital and its subsidiaries, Celltrion and Premier Partners, with the company being advised by Ashfords LLP. The funding is expected to help support and accelerate the advancement of the company’s lead ADC assets and the expansion of its payload and conjugation platform technologies.
Preclinical drug development
Iksuda’s lead programs target tumors that have limited treatment options and are associated with high relapse rates. These include diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, epithelial ovarian cancers, lung adenocarcinomas, triple-negative breast cancers, ductal carcinomas of the pancreas, biliary gastric and colorectal carcinoma.
The first wave of Iksuda ADCs will target antigens that have proven premise in an ADC format with our next wave focussing on novel antigen targets. For example, Iksuda’s lead pre-clinical candidate, IKS03, is a best-in-class CD19-targeted ADC candidate for B-cell cancers. The investment will enable the progression of IKS03 to a first-in-human phase 1 clinical trial. It will also be used to accelerate the company’s earlier-stage programs including IKS04 and IKS012 to IND filing.
Iksuda’s ADC programs target tumors that currently have limited treatment options and high relapse rates. The company’s drug development pipeline is centered on the improved safety and efficacy conferred by tumor-activated, prodrug payloads in combination with stable conjugation technologies, including its proprietary novel PermaLink® platform. Iksuda’s research-stage pipeline utilizes its proprietary Protein Alkylating (ProAlk) tumor-activated payload platform, recently licensed from Göttingen University, founded on Iksuda’s commitment to expand its payload armory and optimize ADC design according to the target antigen.
The partnership with the University of Goettingen confirmed the value of tumor-selective activation of these powerful cytotoxic agents, conjugated with Iksuda’s stable conjugation technology (PermaLink®), in widening the therapeutic index of ADCs.
PermaLink is a cysteine-specific, vinyl pyridine-based chemistry that demonstrates inherent conjugation stability and, unlike many other approaches to conjugation, the platform technology is not susceptible to drug de-conjugation.
A different approach
The novel protein-alkylating mode-of-action of the payload series differs from the field’s primary focus of intra- or DNA inter-strand cross-linking, conferring benefits against drug resistance mechanisms, and enabling the development of more powerful, more tolerable ADCs.
Through the combination of PermaLink technology and the protein alkylating prodrugs, Iksuda aims to enable the differentiated development of more powerful ADCs with improved tumor killing, aligned with improved safety index and an ability to overcome potential tumor resistance.
“This is a transformational investment milestone for Iksuda, enabling us to focus on the progression of our industry-leading ADC programs and bring them to the clinic, whilst supporting our commercial growth,” noted Dave Simpson, Ph.D., the Chief Executive Officer, Iksuda Therapeutics.
“The funding not only reflects the potential of our technologies but also the unmatched expertise of the Iksuda team. We are grateful for the support of this group of investors and delighted to welcome them to the team,” Simpson added.
“We have been highly impressed with Iksuda’s approach and progress to date, and with the Company’s leadership. We are delighted to lead this investment round, and to contribute to enabling the team to progress its very promising pipeline of ADC candidates,” explained Ji Kwang Chung, Investor at Mirae Asset Capital.
“By pursuing tumors that are resistant to current treatment approaches, Iksuda is extending the boundaries of ADC technology, and consequently the treatment options for patients,” Woosung Kee, Chief Executive Officer, Celltrion noted.
“This ideally complements Celltrion’s drive to pioneer uncharted areas of innovative therapies, incorporating unique and successful next-generational approaches that promote health and welfare globally. We have been very impressed with Iksuda’s progress to date and look forward to working together to support their mission,” Kee concluded.
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