ONK Therapeutics, a Galway, Ireland-based NK cell therapy platform company, closed a $21.5m Series A financing.
The round was led by Acorn Bioventures and ALSHC, who were joined by Cormorant Asset Management.
The financing will enable ONK to advance pre-clinical programs through comprehensive IND-enabling studies, including in-vivo proof-of-concept models across multiple programs and continue progress towards a GMP manufacturing capability, as it optimizes both its proprietary cell engineering platform and process development.
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, and led by Chris Nowers, CEO, ONK Therapeutics is a 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. Its core proprietary off-the-shelf cell therapy platform is based on optimally engineered NK cells that express not only a specific tumor antigen targeted CAR, but also have undergone different 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.
Its 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 is a highly researched edit in NK cells for which the first US patent has since been granted to WEHI.
ONK Therapeutics is headquartered in the med-tech hub of Galway, Ireland, with a wholly-owned US subsidiary, ONK Therapeutics, Inc. based at JLabs @ San Diego.