Cancer immunotherapeutics firm Kite Pharma raised $15 million in an initial round of private financing with a syndicate of venture and qualified investors. The funds will be used to progress Los Angeles-based Kite’s lead products into clinical development and expand its preclinical pipeline.
The young firm’s early clinical-stage anticancer candidate is an engineered virus-based alpha fetoprotein (AFP) vaccine designed to stimulate an immune response against AFP-expressing hepatocellular cancer. A Phase I/II clinical trial is currently under way. The Phase I component of the trial will monitor the toxicity of escalating doses of the engineered virus in order to identify a tolerable dose for the Phase II component and future studies. The Phase II stage will evaluate the treatment’s ability to elicit an immune response in a larger number of patients. The National Cancer Institute assisted in funding the AFP-vaccine platform, through its Rapid Access to Interventional Development program.
Kite’s second lead program is based on its GM-CAIX technology. GM-CAIX is a chimeric molecule created by the fusion of the tumor-expressed antigen CAIX (G250; MN), with the immunostimulant GM-CSF. The fusion protein is then integrated into novel immunotherapy designed to to induce robust immune responses against a wide range of tumors expressing CAIX.
The lead GM-CAIX program is an autologous dendritic cellular therapy that is initially being developed for the treatment of renal cancers, although other tumor indications will follow, Kite notes. IND-enabling preclinical testing is in progress.