Kriya grabs $100M to launch gene therapies into the mainstream, starting with diabetes

Kriya Therapeutics is looking beyond the bread and butter of gene therapy—rare diseases—to instead focus on programs for more complex and common diseases like diabetes. And now, the Redwood City, California-based company has banked another $100 million to support the work.

The new funds will boost Kriya's technology and expand its pipeline, as well as propel assets in oncology, eye diseases and metabolic diseases forward. The financing follows a $80.5 million series A round in May 2020, tagged to advance three adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapies licensed from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the National Institutes of Health.

Of the three, Kriya is developing KT-A112 for Type 1 diabetes. It works by delivering the genes to produce insulin and glucokinase through an injection deep into the muscles. 

Kriya’s other programs include KT-A281, a treatment for solid tumors, and KT-A252 and KT-A261, in development for geographic atrophy and uveitis, respectively. Geographic atrophy is an advanced form of dry age-related macular degeneration and uveitis refers to a group of inflammatory diseases that causes swelling in the eye and destroys eye tissues. 

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Jim Momtazee’s Patient Square Capital led the latest round. All of Kriya’s backers, including Foresite Capital and JDRF T1D Fund chipped in, with new investors Woodline Partners LP, CAM Capital, Hongkou and Alumni Ventures also participating. 

To move the field beyond diseases that affect just a few hundred thousand people worldwide and into the mainstream, companies developing gene therapies must rethink how these treatments are developed and manufactured, said Kriya CEO Shankar Ramaswamy, M.D., in a previous interview. 

Part of the proceeds will bankroll the development of Kriya’s vector design platform and manufacturing technology. Both are designed to improve efficiency and lower cost. 

The field has learned a lot from developing the first generation of gene therapies, such as how to design vectors, overcome manufacturing challenges and bring treatments through the regulatory process, Ramaswamy previously said

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“We can apply many of those learnings to now go after increasingly complex problems, starting with diseases where the biology is well known,” he said. 

The company is sticking to diseases like diabetes where the biology and proteins involved are well understood so it doesn’t add any biological risk to the “technological risk” being taken with the new delivery platforms.