EXCLUSIVE: Flagship Pioneering Company Kintai Therapeutics Focuses on Enteric Therapeutics

headshot Paul Peter

The vast majority of immune cells are found in the gut but historically, the gut has been viewed as a liability to drug development. The question of whether or not greater understanding of harnessing the gut could drive more promising drug development has led to the formation of a new company, Kintai Therapeutics.

Founded in 2016 by Flagship Pioneering, Kintai emerges from stealth mode today with a mission to pioneer precision therapies based on enteric signaling networks in the human body. Kintai’s aim is to use a multidisciplinary approach to develop new therapeutics that take advantage of a greater understanding of gut science since the company’s founding more than years ago. Since the company was initially founded, early research conducted by the company has gained revealed a new understanding of the multimodal enteric system that is expected to lead into the development of more than 10 new therapeutic programs.

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David Berry, a general partner at Flagship Pioneering and co-founder of Kintai, told BioSpace that the company began with that question of how a greater understanding of the gut could lead to a new way to develop drugs. He said the researchers focused on how the gut adversely transforms current drugs and then explored ideas on how the interconnections of a wide variety of systems, could be harnessed as a new way to develop drugs. After validating a hypothesis, Flagship decided to build a company around it. They launched the company and built out a powerful product platform for it, called the Precision Enteric Medicines platform, Berry said. Since its formation, Kintai has made many unique discoveries, Berry said, including the identification of more than 44,000 new genes and hundreds of new metabolites that had not been previously known to exist. With the discoveries it has made, Kinta launched with a portfolio of 10 programs focused on multiple therapeutic areas today, including oncology, neurology and immunology.

With that data in hand and a plan to launch with 10 program assets, Berry said Flagship immediately sought a leader who could guide this new company. GlaxoSmithKline veteran Paul-Peter Tak was tapped to serve as chief executive officer of the new company. Speaking from France, Tak said the opportunity to lead Kintai and drive its science was too compelling to pass up. He told BioSpace that he has had a long-standing interest in the gut microbiome and its relationship to the rest of the body. He said the company is poised to produce new gastrointestinal biology that will be transformational to patients as the company leverages the interconnectivity of gastrointestinal biology, the microbiota, immune cells, and neurons that Tak said will enable precision control with proprietary small molecules.

There is a possibility, Tak said, that the relationship between the gut and the brain could lead to the development of neurological medications that do not need to pass the blood-brain barrier. He said what Kintai is doing is generating “a lot of exciting and new biology.”

The first wave of medicines being developed by Kintai is expected to enter the clinic next year, Tak said. The 10 pipeline programs are aimed across autoimmune, metabolic, neurologic and cancer indications, including initiatives in ulcerative colitis, chronic kidney disease, NASH, metabolic syndrome and multiple sclerosis.

As Kintai moves forward through the remaining months of 2019, Tak has several milestones he would like to hit. In addition to “driving the science,” he said he will build external collaborations with academic institutions, something he did while at GSK. Also, the will “invest in the company culture and focus on the science,” as well as experimental and transformational medicine. Tak also said he plans to bring on a strong leadership team who will help drive the pipeline into the clinic.

“We believe that our discovery engine will continue to feed the pipeline,” Tak said. He added that as they currently see things, Kintai’s engine can push forward new discoveries from the pipeline every year for multiple years.

“What we do is fundamentally different than what people have done in the past. That includes the integrated approach. We are uniquely focused on developing the medication for the enteric network which is the command center (for immune cells),” he said.

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