New funding boosts potential therapy for immune disorders

6 November 2019

A potential new therapy targeting difficult-to-treat immune system disorders has secured $20 million in Series A funding to progress to the clinic.

The KB312 antibody was developed through the National Biologics Facility (NBF) at The University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) using antibody engineering technology sourced from the University of California San Francisco.

The project was conducted in collaboration with the Mater Research Institute-UQ and the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Biomarker Translation.

UQ’s technology transfer company UniQuest licensed the antibody rights to Sydney company DendroCyte Biotech.

DendroCyte Biotech on-licensed the intellectual property to Kira Biotech, attracting investment from One Ventures, IP Group and the Advance Queensland Business Development Fund to advance the KB312 antibody to clinical trials.

AIBN Professor Stephen Mahler, one of the inventors of KB312 along with Dr Martina Jones and Professor Trent Munro, said it was exciting to see the technology attract funding to enable clinical translation and testing.

“KB312 is an antibody with a novel target that is common to many immune system disorders and it’s exciting to see it further developed in the clinic,” he said.

Kira Biotech CEO Dr Dan Baker said the company’s program would focus on immune tolerance and target cells and pathways that were key activators of the immune response in patients with autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and type 1 diabetes.

“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,” he said.

“Unlike existing treatments that broadly target immune cells, Kira Biotech’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.”

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said the deal was a vote of confidence in the expertise of UQ to develop therapeutic antibodies and a direct outcome of its continued investment in biologics capabilities at AIBN.