Tempest Therapeutics Leaps into IDO Development with $70M

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Versant Ventures spinoff company Tempest Therapeutics secured $70 million in a Series B funding to advance the company’s immunotherapy pipeline.

San Francisco-based Tempest Therapeutics said the proceeds from the financing round will be used to drive its lead program TPST-8844 into the clinic within the next 12 months. Additionally, the funds will be used to advance at least two other programs into the clinic shortly thereafter, the company said this morning. TPST-8844 is a potent inhibitor of IDO, an enzyme that can be over-expressed in tumor cells. The Tempest drug suppresses the activity of immune cells in the surrounding microenvironment.

IDO inhibitors are popular therapies to use in the battle against cancer. Tempest noted that a combination of an IDO inhibitor with a checkpoint inhibitor such as the anti-PD-1 can be effective in targeting multiple tumor targets. Tempest said its unpublished preclinical data suggests that “TPST-8844 has superior features to others currently in development.” Several other companies have advanced IDO inhibitors into the clinic including Incyte Corporation, which partnered with AstraZeneca and its anti-PD-LI drug, Imfinzi. Last year pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb demonstrated that an anti-PD-1 combined with an IDO1 (indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1) inhibitor performed well in patients with bladder cancer and cervical cancer.

Tempest Chief Executive Officer Tom Dubensky, the former chief scientific officer of Aduro Biotech, said the company is looking forward to “rapidly advancing a superior IDO inhibitor” into the clinic. TPST-8844 will be the first of four programs the fledgling company looks to push into the clinic. Other programs the company has in its pipeline include TPST-1120, a first-in-class antagonist of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARα) transcription factor. Tempest said data shows blocking PPARα inflames the tumor microenvironment and activates important tumor-killing immune cells. TPST-1120 has shown durable efficacy in multiple tumor models both as a single agent and in combination with other cancer therapies, the company said.

Tempest’s pipeline molecules were developed by Inception Sciences, a Versant Ventures Discovery Engine. Dubensky said the company’s ongoing collaboration with Inception will facilitate development of its pipeline as well as “allow for discovery of complementary drug candidates that promote induction of effective anti-tumor immunity.”

Brad Bolzon, Versant’s managing director and chairman of the Tempest Board of Directors, said the company is a strong believer “in the promise of small molecule therapeutics that target immune cells in the tumor microenvironment.”

With a portfolio of several high-quality drug candidates and an experienced management team, Tempest is well-positioned to introduce new therapies for multiple malignancies,” Bolzon said in a statement.

The $70 million financing round was led by Versant, F-Prime Capital Partners and Quan Capital. It was also supported by Lilly Asia Ventures, Foresite Capital and Eight Roads Ventures. As part of the financing round, Tempest added three new members to its board of directors: Tom Woiwode, managing director at Versant, Robert Weisskoff, a partner at F-Prime Capital, and Stella Xu, managing director at Quan Capital.

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