Kahr Medical has raised $18 million (€17 million) to take an anti-CD47 drug into the clinic. The money will fund early-phase development of a CD47x4-1BB bispecific that Kahr plans to test as a single agent and in combination with Roche’s checkpoint inhibitor Tecentriq.
Israel’s Kahr is developing dual and tri-specific signaling proteins. In the case of lead asset DSP107, one end of the protein binds to CD47, a target involved in immunosuppression. The other end of the protein binds to costimulatory receptor 4-1BB. By simultaneously blocking an immunosuppressive signal and activating T cells, Kahr thinks DSP107 can orchestrate powerful anti-tumor attacks.
That hypothesis is untested in humans, but Kahr now has the means to start validating the idea. With $18 million from a syndicate including Flerie Invest, Oriella, Hadasit Bio-Holdings, Pavilion Capital and Mirae Asset Venture Investment, Kahr is poised to start a phase 1/2 trial in the second half of 2020.
The early-phase trial will enroll cancer patients in the U.S. and treat them with DSP107, either as a monotherapy or in combination with Roche’s anti-PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor Tecentriq. Kahr entered into an agreement with Roche to test DSP107 and Tecentriq in non-small cell lung cancer patients who are refractory to checkpoint inhibitors last year.
Securing the funding positions Kahr to have another crack at validating the potential of its proteins. Kahr set up shop in 2007 and raised money from companies including Sanofi to support development of two candidates, including a protein designed to interact with CTLA-4 and FasL.
Investors committed $12 million to Kahr late in 2015 to support its aspirations to move its CTLA-4 asset into a phase 1/2 trial in lymphoma patients. Kahr filed to run the study around the time of the 2015 financing, only to suspend it before enrolling a patient in 2017. The next year, Kahr withdrew the study, having deprioritized the program.
A fusion protein targeting Fn14 and TRAIL also fell away before making it into the clinic, leading Kahr to pivot toward CD47. Multiple other companies are going after the target, but Kahr’s targeting of 4-1BB is a potential differentiator.