NEW YORK – Artiva Biotherapeutics, a San Diego-based developer of cancer cell therapies, launched on Friday with $78 million in Series A financing.
The funding round was led by 5AM Ventures, VenBioPartners, and RA Capital Management.
Artiva is focused on developing and commercializing off-the-shelf, allogeneic natural killer cell therapies and will use the proceeds to advance two targeted treatments into clinical trials this year: HER2-specific CAR-NK cell therapy AB-201 for HER2-positive solid tumors, and CD19-specific CAR-NK cell therapy AB-202 for CD19-positive B-cell malignancies. Artiva is also planning to start clinical studies on its universal NK cell therapy AB-101 in combination with an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody for the treatment of relapsed refractory B-cell lymphoma.
The company said in a statement that "targeted NK cell therapies leverage the innate anti-tumor biology and safety features of NK cells." Additionally, through the implementation of chimeric antigen receptors, as well as gene editing of the natural killer cells, the company will aim to enhance the efficacy of the treatments.
GC LabCell, a company that has been developing allogeneic NK cells for patients for more than 10 years, will help Artiva develop and manufacture the CAR product candidates under an exclusive ex-Asia/Pacific licensing agreement.
Artiva will compete with several other companies that have tapped into the NK cell therapy market and are in the early stages of advancing candidates through clinical studies.
In November 2019, for example, MD Anderson Cancer Center entered into a licensing and research agreement with Takeda Pharmaceutical to commercialize its CD19-targeted CAR NK-cell therapy and a B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA)-targeted CAR NK-cell therapy. The CD19-targeted CAR NK-cell therapy is being evaluated in an ongoing Phase I/IIA trial, and the companies plan to initiate a pivotal study in 2021.
Also, earlier this year, the US Food and Drug Administration accepted Acepodia's investigational new drug application for its NK cell therapy, which targets HER2-expressing tumors.