KalVista snags $33M from big-name VCs to speed plasma kallikrein inhibitors into clinic

KalVista Pharmaceuticals has persuaded Novo A/S, SV Life Sciences and some other notable VCs to part with $33 million (€29 million). The cash will go toward advancing KalVista's pipeline of plasma kallikrein inhibitors, the most advanced of which is set to enter Phase II next year.

KalVista CEO Andy Crockett

Salisbury, United Kingdom-based KalVista, which also operates out of Boston, MA, raised the cash on the back of wrapping up a first-in-human study of its lead candidate in patients with diabetic macular edema (DME). With the trial encouraging KalVista to move the intravitreally administered plasma kallikrein inhibitor to the next-phase of development, investors have come on board for a Series B round that will support a broadening of the firm's clinical pipeline. KalVista plans to use some of the cash to push its plasma kallikrein inhibitors, which use various routes of delivery, into the clinic.

"This financing will allow us to rapidly advance our programs in DME and [hereditary angioedema (HAE)] towards important clinical proof of concept milestones," KalVista CEO Andrew Crockett said in a statement. Existing investors Novo A/S and SV Life Sciences are financing the push with RA Capital Management, Longwood Fund and Venrock. RA Capital led the round, bagging itself a seat on the board and a stake in a second company involved with kallikreins, a subgroup of serine proteases. The life science-focused crossover fund manager has also invested in Dyax ($DYAX).

Like KalVista, Dyax is looking at disorders related to plasma kallikrein and is active in the treatment of HAE. KalVista is well behind Dyax--which has already won approval for Kalbitor--but is hoping its oral formulation will give it an edge in HAE. The oral HAE treatment is one part of the preclinical pipeline KalVista is working to move toward the clinic. An oral therapy for DME is also in early-stage research. Collectively, the oral assets and more advanced, intravitreally delivered DME drug KVD001 represent a broad bet on the role of the enzyme plasma kallikrein in a clutch of diseases.

The enzyme system is known to play a role in HAE and may be involved with DME, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, microvascular complications of diabetes and other disorders, a breadth that means sizable markets could open up to KalVista and its competitors. Whether this happens will depend in part on the strength of the underlying scientific idea, which is based upon a belief that unusual activity of kallikrein--which normally triggers a cascade response at the sites of vascular injuries--is involved with the development of disorders.

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