2021-11-03| Funding

San Diego Startup Nabs $140 Million Following BeiGene, Kite Partnerships

by Joy Lin
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On November 2nd, Shoreline Biosciences announced the closing of a $140 million Series B round to develop specialized immune cells to kill cancer. This follows back-to-back partnerships with China-based BeiGene and Kite Pharma for targeted cell therapies in June.

The mentioned partners joined at least 15 other investors in the latest round led by Ally Bridge Group. The amount raised dwarfs Shoreline’s $43 million Series A back in April.

“With this financing and our corporate partnerships, Shoreline has now more than $300 million to continue building our pipeline of safe, effective, and affordable cellular immunotherapies for both solid tumors and hematologic malignancies,” said Kleanthis Xanthopoulos, Ph.D., Shoreline’s co-founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer.

Related Article: BARDA Exercises $23.8 Million to Support Phase 3 Trial of Vedanta’s Encouraging Microbiome Therapy


iPSC-Derived NK Cells to Treat Cancer

T cell-based therapies have been effective in cancer treatment and have obtained a small but growing number of FDA approvals. However, they are limited by toxic side effects such as cytokine release syndrome, which causes inflammation and organ failure, and neurotoxicity.

Production is also costly and time-consuming, as every order has to be tailor-made to each patient. Shoreline is championing another type of immune cell — natural killer (NK) cells — as a superior option to T cells for treating cancer.

The San Diego-based startup is developing an induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform to grow NK cells. According to the company, NK cells produced this way could clear cancer cells without attacking healthy cells. They could be sold as off-the-shelf products, which reduces manufacturing time and cost. Furthermore, the cells do not need to be harvested from a donor.

Shoreline is partnered with another co-founder, Dan Kaufman’s lab at the University of California, San Diego. The facility allows the company to cultivate iPSCs into the desired immune cells for preclinical and clinical studies.

On the partnership front, Shoreline has teamed up with two companies, the Beijing-based BeiGene and Kite, a subsidiary of Gilead, in June.

The partnership with BeiGene involves four NK cell targets. Under the agreement, BeiGene would lead clinical development, while Shoreline would take care of manufacturing. The deal nabbed Shoreline an upfront payment of $45 million from BeiGene, with an option to retain sales rights for two targets in the US and Canada. Meanwhile, BeiGene would obtain global commercial rights to the targets.

The same month, Shoreline announced a second collaboration with Kite targeting chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) NK cells. Kite was also given an option to continue the collaboration with a further iPSC CAR Macrophage program for a selected target post-deal. Kite received an undisclosed upfront payment from Shoreline and could stand to receive $2.3 billion in future milestone payments.

Related Article: Bispecific Antibodies or CAR T-Cells: Which One of These Cancer Immunotherapies Would Prevail?


Other Companies Developing NK Cell-based Therapies

Shoreline is not alone in developing NK cell-based therapies. Another NK cell-focused company Artiva Biotherapeutics raised $120 million in a Series B in February. Its lead candidate AB-101 is being paired with rituximab to treat B-cell malignancies in Phase 1 trials. It has partnered with Merck to develop CAR-NK cell therapies to crack solid tumors.

Other companies operating in this space include Fate Therapeutics, Fortress Biotech, and Gamida Cell.

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