ONK Therapeutics Ltd, a Galway, Ireland-based natural killer (NK) cell therapy company, raised US$8M in financing.
This round, which brought the total raised in the last six months to US$14.6M, was led by Acorn Bioventures, and current shareholders, principally Seamus Mulligan, an experienced biopharmaceutical executive.
The company intends to use the funds to expand the team, its pre-clinical R&D and its manufacturing capabilities, in order to progress its novel, dual-targeted, natural killer (NK) cell therapy platform towards human clinical trials.
Founded in 2015, by Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) Prof. Michael O’Dwyer, and led by newly appointed CEO Chris Nowers, ONK Therapeutics is a pre-clinical stage company dedicated to the development of a off-the-shelf, dual-targeted NK cell therapy platform, targeting solid and hematological cancers. This approach combines the expression of a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and a high affinity, membrane-bound TNF related apoptosis inducing ligand variant (TRAILv). This is coupled with a research focus on strategies to enhance homing and persistence as well as to overcome exhaustion, including the exploration of proprietary gene edits, such as the deletion of checkpoint inhibitory receptors in NK cells. The company is advancing an expanding portfolio of product candidates based on this platform.
The company’s lead research program, ONKT101, is a dual-targeted NK cell therapy incorporating a CD19 CAR and TRAILv targeting the death receptor pathway (DR5) intended for the treatment of relapsed/refractory B cell malignancies. This program is partnered with Avectas and will utilize its proprietary SOLUPORETM technology as a means of non-viral genetic modification. The second program, ONKT102, combines an optimized affinity CD38 CAR and a TRAILv targeting DR5 intended for the treatment of patients with relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma.
Nowers is an experienced biopharma executive, with significant cell therapy expertise from his tenure at both Kite Pharma (Head of Europe) and Cell Medica (CEO). Additional roles spanning more than 25 years in the biopharma industry include senior leadership positions as CEO of Avantogen Oncology, General Management roles at Amgen, and senior global and regional commercial leadership roles in the field of immunology at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS).
Following the investment, Isaac Manke, PhD, Partner at Acorn Bioventures, and Mr Nowers will join the board of directors.