KB312, the future of autoimmune diseases?
Kira Biotech has recently been granted a Series A funding for the company to discover more treatment methods that can cure difficult-to-treat immune system disorders.
AUSTRALIA | 29 OCTOBER 2019
On the 29th of October, Kira Biotech, a rising Australian biotechnology company that develops new and original immunomodulatory compounds for the treatment of immune system disorders, publicised that it has managed to obtain a funding of A$20 million to serve as a venture capital fund. The company aims to use this funding to develop treatments for immune system disorders that are deemed as difficult to treat.
The fund raising for this Series A fund was led by OneVentures, with significant investment from IP Group and support from the Advance Queensland Business Development Fund. The money obtained will help Kira Biotech’s top candidate KB312 to become even better through phase 1 human studies, in which this antibody was tested on a small group of healthy individuals—the aim of the human study was to assess its safety and side effects.
KB312 is an antibody that targets new and unfamiliar harmful substances present in the bodies of people who suffer from immune system disorders. These harmful substances are prevalent in several immune system disorders, and KB312 acts to restore or induce the body’s immune tolerance. Thus, KB312 plays an important role in the development of therapeutics that target difficult-to-treat immune system disorders.
According to the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, 12 per cent of the population will suffer from an autoimmune disease, an illness that causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack normal body tissues, in their lifetime. It also has a detrimental effect on the country economically—statistics have shown that it costs A$30 billion each year, which is double the cost incurred due to cancer.
“Kira’s research program focuses on immune tolerance and targets cells and pathways that are key activators of the immune response in patients with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and type 1 diabetes,” says Dr Dan Baker, the founding CEO of Kira.
“We’re also keen to look at how KB312 might address transplant complications seen in graft-versus-host disease and rejection associated with heart and kidney transplants.”
This is because KB312 differs from existing treatments, majority of which target immune cells.
“Kira’s antibody targets a specific activated cell which directs the immune response. In doing so, KB312 limits the negative impacts of broad immunosuppression and preserves beneficial immune cells that protect patients against infections and malignancies,” explained Dr Baker.
Dr Baker is a veteran at developing immunology drugs and is hence able to benefit Kira Biotech’s project in this field. He became part of Centocoror/Janssen (the pharmaceutical arm of Johnson and Johnson) in the year 2000, after being in the academic medicine industry as a rheumatologist and an immunologist. AS Vice President of Immunology Janssen Research and Development, he made significant contribution to the development of an extensive immunology portfolio which had a compilation of sales that earned more than US$13 billion.
Kira Biotech’s research was inspired by the researches led by the late Professor Derek Hart and Associate Professor Georgina Clark over the past few decades. Many Australian partners of the Professor and Assistant Professor have also played a part in the research, especially those who had participated in the CRC for Translational Biomarkers, Sydney Local Health District, the University of Queensland and the University of California, San Francisco.
Associate Professor Clark mentioned that the launch of Kira Biotech is an important event in her career. She also acknowledged the hard work put in by the scientists who put their heart and soul into the project—they put in a lot of effort to translate the research “from bench to bedside”.
“I am thrilled our research has attracted the capital and management team necessary to move it towards the clinic and closer to helping patients. KB312 is an example of an Australian technology that has the potential for global health impact with its differentiated treatment approach,” noted Associate Professor Clark.
The Series A funding invested in Kira Biotech’s new project from OneVenture’s III was backed-up by the Australian Government’s Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF), which was set-up by the Australian Government Department of Health the Department of Innovation. It was to provide a pool of public and private funds for investment in biomedical innovations with high potential for further improvement and development, as well as those with high possibility of becoming commercialized.
This article was contributed by Ling Yi, an editorial intern at World Scientific Publishing Co. and a contributing writer for Asia-Pacific Biotech News. She is from Nanyang Girls' High School, has keen interest in learning more about life sciences and exploring literature, in both English and Chinese. She also enjoys studying different languages such as Japanese and Korean, and has a passion for dancing and reading.