Artiva Raises $120 Million to Advance Pipeline of Allogeneic NK Cell Therapies
Oncology-focused Artiva Biotherapeutics secured $120 million in a Series B financing round that will be used to advance its allogenic NK cell therapy development programs and expand ongoing research and development activities.
Funds will be used to support the development of its lead asset, AB-101, an ADCC enhancer NK-cell therapy for use in combination with monoclonal antibodies or innate-cell engagers.
AB-101 is currently in a Phase I/II study in combination with rituximab for the treatment of relapsed or refractory B-cell lymphomas. In addition to AB-101, Artiva is also developing CAR-NK assets. AB-201 is a novel HER2-specific CAR-NK cell therapy for the treatment of HER2+ solid tumors. AB-202 is a CD19-specific CAR-NK cell therapy for the treatment of B-cell malignancies.
Artiva’s cell therapies are designed to leverage the innate anti-tumor biology and safety features of NK cells. The therapies are optimized for targeted anti-cancer activity through CARs, or ADCC enhancement through therapeutic antibody or innate-cell engager combination therapy, the company said.
According to Artiva, the company’s manufacturing platform supports large-scale production and cryopreservation of off-the-shelf allogeneic NK cell therapies, and proprietary CAR-NK and NK-specific gene-editing technologies to augment therapeutic activity.
Fred Aslan, chief executive officer of Artiva, said the investor support for the Series B financing round validates the promise of the company’s NK cell platform, its manufacturing first strategy and the company’s “goal to provide safe, effective, and truly off-the-shelf cell therapy treatments that are immediately accessible to cancer patients.”
The infusion of cash was announced about a month after Artiva forged a licensing agreement with pharma giant Merck to develop novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-NK cell therapies against solid tumor-associated antigens. The deal calls for Merck to harness the power of Artiva’s off-the-shelf allogeneic NK cell manufacturing platform and its proprietary CAR-NK technology.
The collaboration will include two CAR-NK programs with an option for a third, none of which are part of Artiva’s current or planned pipeline. Artiva will develop the programs through the first GMP manufacturing campaign and to preparation for the Investigational New Drug (IND) application, where Merck will take over clinical and commercial development.
The Series B was closed less than one year after the company’s 2020 launch. Artiva launched in June with $78 million in financing. The $120 million Series B was supported by new investor Venrock Healthcare Capital Partners, which led the financing round.
Other new investors participating in the financing included Acuta Capital Partners, Cormorant Asset Management, EcoR1 Capital, Franklin Templeton, Janus Henderson Investors, Logos Capital, RTW Investments, LP, Surveyor Capital, Wellington Management Company, and an undisclosed leading global investment firm. Existing investors, 5AM Ventures, RA Capital Management, and venBio Partners, along with strategic partners GC LabCell and GC also participated in the financing.
As part of the financing agreement, Venrock’s Bong Koh joined the company’s board of directors. In a brief statement, Koh said touted Artiva’s differentiated technology, strong manufacturing capabilities and a talented management team and said he looks forward to “working closely with Artiva’s board and management during this exciting period of growth for the company.