BioPharma, Startups

Akrevia launches with $30M in Series A financing

The company, with ARIAD and Intellia veterans at the helm, aims to develop CTLA4-targeting monoclonal antibody that mitigates the immune toxicity of Bristol’s Yervoy.

A company developing a preclinical immunotherapy drug has launched with a two industry veterans at the helm and a round of venture capital.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Akrevia Therapeutics said Thursday that it had closed $30 million in Series A financing, led by F-Prime Capital Partners and Atlas Ventures. Nessan Bermingham, founder and former CEO of gene therapy company Intellia Therapeutics, will serve as executive chairman, while former ARIAD Pharmaceuticals president of research and development Tim Clackson will head Akrevia’s research and development while serving as president.

The company’s development platform, Aklusion, is designed to allow antibodies, cytokines and chemokines to be activated only once they have reached the tumor microenvironment. Its lead program is a monoclonal antibody that targets CTLA4, an immune checkpoint that is also the target of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s marketed Yervoy (ipilimumab) and tremelimumab, under Phase III development by AstraZeneca.

“Akrevia’s anti-CTLA4 is differentiated through its optimized potency and through being specifically targeted to tumors – only activated in the tumor microenvironment,” Clackson said in an email. “With this profile, the agent has the potential for higher efficacy and reduced systemic immune toxicity in patients, allowing more effective design and potentially allowing a broader range of patients to benefit.”

Yervoy, which received Food and Drug Administration approval in 2011, is used to treat melanoma, often in combination with BMS’ PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo (nivolumab). Yervoy’s label carries a black-box warning for potentially severe and fatal immune toxicities that can include any organ system, but most commonly include enterocolitis, hepatitis, dermatitis, neuropathy and endocrinopathy.

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