Kura snags up to $150M from Bristol Myers, VC Hercules to fund operations through 2026

Whether it’s partnering up, axing assets (or staff), selling off programs or taking out loans, the prolonged bear market has forced biotechs to get creative in order to stay afloat.

Now, Kura Oncology has secured a $25 million equity investment deal with Bristol Myers Squibb and a term loan of up to $125 million from Hercules Capital—two transactions that, in combination with the biotech’s existing cash, are expected to fund current operations into 2026, according to a Nov. 3 release.

Under the proposed agreement with BMS, Kura will sell 1,370,171 shares to the Big Pharma at $18.25 apiece. BMS will be able to appoint a member to Kura’s Global Steering Committee, though the biotech will maintain full ownership and control over its programs and operations.

Meanwhile, Kura’s loan agreement with VC Hercules will allow the oncology company to take out $10 million immediately upon deal close, with a further $15 million available for withdrawal. Kura can also draw an additional $75 million in two separate tranches if it hits unspecified near-term clinical milestones. There's even more funding potentially at play, in the form of $25 million that can be taken out in a fourth tranche, subject to Hercules. 

Kura currently hosts a pipeline of small-molecule drug candidates that target cancer signaling pathways. Earlier this year, the San Diego biotech’s menin inhibitor, dubbed ziftomenib or KO-539, was freed from a partial clinical hold. The FDA had sidelined the phase 1b blood cancer trial for two months in response to a patient death.

The hold was lifted after the FDA and Kura agreed on a mitigation strategy for differentiation syndrome, the adverse event implicated in the death that triggered the restrictions. Differentiation syndrome is a known adverse event of differentiating agents, a class that includes KO-539 and approved drugs such as Servier's Tibsovo, used in acute myeloid leukemia.