Gerngross biotech Ankyra Therapeutics nabs $45M series B to jump into the clinic, hires new CMO

Little startup Ankyra Therapeutics has grabbed a relatively small $45 million B round as it plots getting its leading oncology hopeful into the clinic.  

That drug, ANK-101, is currently preclinical, but the cash boost should help it through human testing in cancer. Details are still very thin on the ground, with the company not giving specific cancer targets, saying its approach “is a true platform that can extend drug bioavailabity and enhance anti-tumor immune responses, while avoiding systemic adverse events.”

It adds that it has a “highly differentiated technology” that can boost the window of immune-modulating oncology drugs, namely by forming an extended drug depot following intratumoral administration.

The company is chaired and founded by biotech veteran and current Adagio lead Tillman Gerngross, Ph.D. As part of the funding announcement, Ankyra said it has hired a new chief medical officer in Howard Kaufman, M.D., who had recent stints at Amgen, Compass Therapeutics and Replimune.

He’s also a specialist in oncolytic virus approaches, having led the first successful phase 3 trial of Imlygic (talimogene laherparepvec) a genetically modified oncolytic viral therapy for melanoma.

New investors including Borealis Ventures, Fidelity Management & Research Company GV, Sands Capital Ventures and Spring Mountain Capital joined existing investors Polaris Partners and Mithril Capital.

“We are fortunate to have the support of investors who share our vision of developing tumor-localized cytokines and other immune therapies to treat cancer with enhanced efficacy and safety,” said Gerngross, co-founder and executive chairman of Ankyra.

“This is an important moment for the company as we work to bring our first development program through IND and into phase 1 clinical trials, and we are excited to bring Howard Kaufman, and his proven track record of successful clinical development, to the Ankyra team.”