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Bioscience and pharmaceutical New Castle County News

NiKang inks second collaborative drug trial

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WILMINGTON – The biopharmaceutical startup NiKang Therapeutics announced Wednesday that it has signed a second clinical trial collaboration with a biopharma firm for its small-molecule therapy drug in about a month.

NiKang, which is based at the Delaware Innovation Space at the DuPont Experimental Station, has entered into a clinical trial collaboration and supply agreement with Boston-based publicly traded biopharma firm AVEO Oncology.

The two firms will evaluate the effectiveness of NiKang’s small-molecule drug NKT2152 in combination with AVEO’s Fotivda, an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) known generically as tivozanib that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in treatment of some cases of kidney cancer.

Under the agreement’s terms, NiKang will sponsor the trial scheduled to commence this year and AVEO will co-fund it. Both companies will provide their respective drugs at no cost, and they will form a Joint Development Committee to oversee the collaboration.

“Preclinical and early clinical data have demonstrated enhanced anti-tumor activity by the combination of [the companies’ drugs]. Given tivozanib’s established excellent clinical profile, we are excited to work with AVEO to explore such an opportunity,” said Zhenhai Gao, co-founder, president and CEO of NiKang, in a statement. “We look forward to collaborating with our partners to further advance NKT2152 into its next stage of development as part of our combination strategy. This clinical collaboration with AVEO is an excellent example of pooling expertise and resources together to maximize the potential of both NKT2152 and tivozanib in helping relapsed or refractory advanced renal cell carcinoma (R/R ccRCC) patients.”

Likewise, AVEO President and CEO Michael Bailey said he was excited about the drug combination’s potential.

“We believe the best-in-class qualities of these two compounds provide a unique combination of efficacy and tolerability for patients with R/R ccRCC as a doublet or, potentially in the future, as part of a triple combination,” he added in a statement.

NiKang was incubated in 2017 with $10 million of seed funding by CBC Group, a Chinese health care investment firm formerly known as C-Bridge Capital. It has since quietly developed promising small-molecule drugs that have attracted investors’ interest.

In June, it closed a $200 million Series C financing round, one of the largest such venture capital fundraisings in Delaware in recent memory and among the largest in the greater Philadelphia area last year. In November, the firm dosed its first patient in a NKT2152 trial, treating conditions that commonly arise from clear cell renal carcinoma, a kidney cancer. A few weeks later, it signed its first clinical trial collaboration on the drug with Pfizer, using it in combination with two of the biopharma giant’s drugs in a trial.

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