With $65 Million in Hand, Chinook Therapeutics Launches to Tackle Kidney Disease
British Columbia-based Chinook Therapeutics burst onto the scene with $65 million in hand and a goal of driving a portfolio of compounds aimed at kidney diseases into the clinic by 2021.
The new company, which was founded earlier this year, will take a similar approach to treat kidney disease that oncologists have taken with cancer. The insights and tools that enabled the development of precision medicine in oncology are being applied in the kidney space. Chinook is utilizing new and efficient translational approaches to speed R&D, and the company plans to run clinical trials in defined patient populations with rapid, robust endpoints – reducing risk along the way. The funds from the Series A financing round will be used to support development of the company’s portfolio.
Eric Dobmeier, president and chief executive officer of Chinook, said that kidney diseases are a growing problem across the globe and there is a lack of effective treatments for many patients. Because of the lack of treatment, Dobmeier said many patients have to resort to things like dialysis, kidney transplants and other methods that add high costs to the healthcare system.
“Drug development in kidney diseases is experiencing a resurgence due to greater understanding of disease biology, utilization of novel translational platforms and patient stratification tools, and the emergence of accelerated regulatory pathways based on surrogate endpoints. These dynamics combine to create very attractive opportunities for Chinook to develop a portfolio of precision medicines for kidney diseases,” Dobmeier said in a statement.
In its approach to kidney disease, Chinook will apply its proprietary discovery platform, which leverages single-cell RNA sequencing, human-derived organoids and new translational models, to discover and develop therapeutics with novel mechanisms of action against key kidney disease pathways. The Vancouver-based company’s lead candidates are focused on rare, severe disorders with defined and rapid clinical development pathways. These programs may also have utility in more common kidney diseases, expanding the potential patient populations, Chinook said in its announcement.
Chinook’s Series A funding was led by founding investor Versant Ventures. Financing round participants also included fellow founding investor Apple Tree Partners and new investor Samsara BioCapital. Chinook was incubated through Versant’s Inception Sciences discovery engine in Vancouver and seeded by Versant and Apple Tree Partners.
Jerel Davis, Versant’s managing director and a member of the Chinook board of directors, said the launch of Chinook is exciting. Davis said there is great confidence that Chinook’s team can “seize opportunities created by new biological insights, technology advancements, and receptive regulatory agencies, to discover and develop new therapies for kidney diseases.”
To ensure greater success in the kidney disease space, which is valued at about $100 billion, Chinook has tapped a team with a history of successful drug development. In addition to Dobmeier, who spent 15 years at Seattle Genetics as chief operating officer and oversaw the launch of Adcetris, Andrew King joined the company as head of renal discovery and translational medicine. King has spent more than 10 years researching kidney diseases. Prior to joining Chinook, Dr. King was senior director of discovery and translational biology at Ardelyx and before that led AbbVie’s scientific strategy and discovery team for chronic and acute kidney diseases. Tom Frohlich assumes the role of chief business officer. Prior to Chinook, Frohlich helmed business development at Arbutus Biopharma and also held roles at Johnson & Johnson and Merck.