Kurome raises $15M to overcome adaptive resistance in leukemia

Jan Rosenbaum, CEO and chief scientific officer of Kurome Therapeutics, Ph.D. (Business Wire)

Kurome Therapeutics has raised $15 million to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML) by targeting adaptive resistance mechanisms. Medicxi and Affinity Asset Advisors co-led the series A round to fund Kurome through IND-enabling studies. 

Cancer cells can develop resistance to chemotherapy and other oncology drugs by hijacking immune signaling pathways. The process, known as adaptive resistance, empowers cancer cells to survive the onslaught of chemotherapies and targeted treatments thrown at them by physicians. However, the approach adopted by cancer cells has a potential vulnerability identified by researchers at the lab of Daniel Starczynowski, Ph.D., lab at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. 

In 2019, Starczynowski and his collaborators published a Science Translational Medicine paper linking a multikinase FLT3-IRAK1/4 inhibitor to the elimination of adaptively resistant FLT3-mutant AML cells in vitro and in vivo. Kurome secured a license to the inhibitors and seed funding from CincyTech in 2020.

Now, Kurome has secured the support of its seed investors and new backers Medicxi and Affinity Asset Advisors for further preclinical development. Kurome is initially focusing on AML patients with poor prognosis but sees opportunities to apply the multikinase inhibitors to preleukemic conditions such as myelodysplastic syndromes, as well as certain solid tumors.

Other groups have tried to tackle the problem identified by Kurome by suppressing the activation of signaling pathways such as MAPK kinase. Spirita Oncology pursued such a strategy only to scrap its AML trial because of insufficient efficacy. Starczynowski and his collaborators have argued inhibiting FLT3-IRAK1/4 will work better as it acts upstream of Ras/MAPK.

Curis is the more direct competitor. The biotech shared phase 1 data on its oral inhibitor of IRAK4 and FLT3 signaling last month, triggering a jump in its stock price. Kurome is trailing well behind Curis but its backers see reasons to think it can come out on top. 

“In multi-factorial hematological malignancies like AML, we are excited by the early clinical data of combined IRAK4 and FLT3 inhibition in patients. The Kurome team has generated compelling preclinical data that suggests a differentiated approach with potential advantages over others in this emerging space,” Aaron Kantoff, venture partner at Medicxi, said in a statement.