Checkmate Notches $27 Million and Taps Ex-FORUM Pharma Exec as COO

Published: Jun 19, 2017

Checkmate Notches $27 Million and Taps Ex-FORUM Pharma Exec as COO June 16, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Checkmate Pharmaceuticals snagged $27 million in Series B financing that will be used to advance the company’s Phase Ib drug that complements PD-1 inhibitors in the treatment of melanoma.

CMP-001 comprises a CpG-A oligonucleotide packaged within a virus-like particle. It is designed to activate the innate immune system via Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) and mediate tumor control by the subsequent induction of both innate and adaptive anti-tumor immune responses. The drug is being studied for use in primary refractory melanoma patients who have either progressed on or failed to respond to anti-PD-1 therapy. CMP-001 is the only CpG-A oligonucleotide in clinical development, Checkmate said.

CMP-001 is currently being studied in a Phase Ib trial in combination with Keytruda (pembrolizumab). The combination therapy of CMP-001 and pembrolizumab has the potential to increase the proportion of cancer patients who respond to checkpoint inhibitor therapies and to increase the magnitude and duration of the anti-tumor responses, providing added clinical benefit, Checkmate said this morning.

The Massachusetts-based company acquired CMP-001 from Cytos, after the drug failed to work as an asthma treatment, Endpoints noted.

In its announcement of the new financing this morning, Checkmate said the funds will allow the company to conduct advanced studies in melanoma, as well as pursue studies in additional indications in which the combination approach may prove to be of clinical benefit.

Art Krieg, chief executive officer of Checkmate, told Endpoints that the financing will be enough to carry the company through the next 18 months, which should carry the company through a trial expansion phase. Additionally, the funds will allow the company to expand its employment slightly with about six to 12 new people. That should bring company employment up to between 25 and 30 people.

The financing round was supported by new investor F-Prime Capital Partners. The round also includes existing investors, Sofinnova and venBio Partners.

Ben Auspitz, a partner at F-Prime Capital Partners, said the company was making excellent progress in demonstrating that CMP-001 in combination with pembrolizumab is providing clinical benefit to PD-1-refractory patients with advanced melanoma.

Checkpoint, Endpoints said, is planning to release some data later this year on CMP-001 – data that could lead to a possible M&A deal. Although Krieg did not provide much information about the data, he told Endpoints that researchers have had a chance to track tumor regression in patients. The company is planning to file for breakthrough therapy from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well.

In addition to the financing, Checkmate also announced it tapped Karen Brennan as the company’s new chief operating officer. Brennan, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry, most recently served as vice president of clinical and development operations at Forum Pharmaceuticals.

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