Kyras Therapeutics Launches With Versant Ventures Backing
Kyras Therapeutics, Inc. announced today that it has closed a Series A financing led by Versant Ventures. Co-founded by Brent R. Stockwell, Professor in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry at Columbia University, and Versant Ventures to commercialize Columbia University technology, Kyras is the first company to launch from Versant’s Highline Therapeutics incubator in New York City.
Kyras is developing novel small molecules that directly target the RAS family of proteins. According to data from the National Cancer Institute, more than 30 percent of all human cancers are driven by mutations in RAS genes, including 95 percent of pancreatic, 45 percent of colorectal, and 35 percent of lung cancers, among many others. The RAS proteins serve as central regulators of cell signalling to control cell growth, differentiation, and survival. They are also the prototypical examples of well-validated and medically important proteins that have remained undruggable for over 30 years. Kyras has an exclusive license to develop the first direct RAS inhibitors, which were discovered using a novel methodology and, in contrast to other approaches, bind directly to RAS proteins in a non-covalent manner; both the methodology and the chemical matter are subjects of pending patent applications filed by Columbia University. Kyras is committed to rapidly bring its compounds to patients with pancreatic and other deadly cancers, as well as orphan RASopathies, and is building a deep pipeline of additional RAS-targeted compounds. The first clinical trials of Kyras’ RAS-inhibiting drugs are scheduled for 2018.
As part of the financing, Brad Bolzon, Managing Director at Versant Ventures, and Carlo Rizzuto, Venture Partner at Versant Ventures and CEO of Highline Therapeutics, joined the Board of Directors, and Joe Vacca joined the management team as Chief Scientific Officer. Dr. Vacca has a 30-year track record in the pharmaceutical industry, previously leading medicinal and structural chemistry at Merck, where he played key roles in bringing three drugs to market. More recently, Dr. Vacca served as Senior Vice President of Early Success Sharing Partnerships at WuXi AppTec.
Scientific Advisory Board
Frank McCormick, a distinguished RAS researcher and biotechnology entrepreneur, was appointed Chair of the company’s Scientific Advisory Board. Dr. McCormick also serves as RAS National Program Advisor, Member of the National Academy of Sciences,
- David A. Wood Chair of Tumor Biology and Cancer Research, and Professor Emeritus of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Joining Dr. McCormick on the Scientific Advisory Board are other world-renowned RAS researchers:
- Adrienne Cox, PhD. Head, Division of Molecular Radiobiology, and Associate Professor, Departments of Radiation Oncology and Pharmacology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
- Channing Der, PhD. Kenan Distinguished Professor, Department of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Martin McMahon, PhD. Cumming-Presidential Professor of Cancer Biology, Department of Dermatology, and Senior Director for Preclinical Translation, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah
“I am excited to be working with this pre-eminent group of academic and industry experts to leverage these breakthrough insights into such an important drug target,” commented Dr. Vacca. “These intellectual and financial resources will enable us to develop the first RAS-targeted drugs for patients with incurable forms of cancer.”
“We are committed to building a robust pipeline of innovative drug candidates based on these important discoveries from Columbia and other leading research institutions,” commented Carlo Rizzuto. “We look forward to establishing Kyras as a leading biotech company here in New York City.”
“We are pleased to be working with Versant Ventures and Highline Therapeutics who have the expertise, resources and experience to bring this technology to market,” remarked Beth Kauderer from Columbia Technology Ventures, the technology transfer office at Columbia University. “We are proud that Professor Stockwell has demonstrated that the RAS oncoproteins are indeed druggable.”
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