Iksuda Therapeutics has raised $47 million to take a CD19-targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) into the clinic. The British biotech has ceded a big head start to CD19 ADC leader ADC Therapeutics but thinks it can come from behind by delivering a best-in-class product.
Formerly known as Glythera, Iksuda has worked to establish a clutch of technologies that improve on existing ADCs. The technology portfolio includes a cysteine-specific, vinyl pyridine-based chemistry linker platform that is designed to get more of the cytotoxic payload to target cells, thereby boosting efficacy and improving tolerability.
Iksuda is trying to differentiate itself through its choice of payloads, too. CD19 prospect IKS01 uses a prodrug payload technology created to enable the cancer-selective activation of the cytotoxic agent. Again, the goal is to prevent the payload from harming healthy cells.
Investors have bought into the idea. Iksuda turned to South Korea for funding. Mirae Asset Group, Celltrion and Premier Partners co-led the financing round. Celltrion, a Korean biopharma company, said the investment makes it the largest shareholder in Iksuda. The investor has provided half of the money upfront and tied the rest to the achievement of certain milestones.
Iksuda will use the money to take IKS01 into the clinic as a treatment for B-cell cancers. ADC Therapeutics won FDA approval for its CD19-targeted ADC in April, but Iksuda is still going after the target in the belief its linker and payload technology can give it an edge over the competition.
The cash will also equip Iksuda to take IKS04 and IKS012 up to IND filings. IKS012 is a preclinical-stage FOLR1-targeted drug that Iksuda sees as a potential treatment for diseases including ovarian, lung and triple-negative breast cancers. Iksuda has yet to say anything about IKS04, which is still at the discovery stage, beyond the fact it targets solid tumors.