K36 emerges with $30M to bankroll multiple myeloma drug in-licensed from Novartis

K36 Therapeutics has come out of the gates with $30 million in venture funding to back a small-molecule oral treatment from Novartis. 

The Cambridge, Massachusetts, biotech emerged Thursday to take its sole asset into the clinic next year. The biotech claims it will be the first to test a therapy targeting overexpression of histone methyltransferase (MMSET), which impacts about 20% of people with multiple myeloma. 

In t(4;14) multiple myeloma, MMSET activity is enhanced, which leads DNA to express genes that boost the development of multiple myeloma. K36's drug, dubbed KTX-1001, aims to inhibit MMSET to in turn shut down chromatin and silence the expression of genes that induce cancerous growth. 

The biotech in-licensed the drug from Novartis. Details of the deal size and timing were kept under wraps. The startup's president and CEO, Terry Connolly, Ph.D., joined in February. 

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Connolly was previously chief operating officer of Skyhawk Therapeutics, a frequent partner of pharmas including Vertex, Merck Roche, Takeda, Bristol Myers Squibb and Biogen. Before Skyhawk, he spent less than a year as chief business officer at Dragonfly Therapeutics. Prior to those two upstarts, he was executive director of business development at Celgene. 

K36 says it will ask regulators to approve its first human study before next summer. Heading up clinical development is Travis Quigley, who was previously Takeda's global platform leader for CAR-NK.

F-Prime and Atlas Venture co-led the financing and were joined by Eight Roads Ventures.