Emerging Australian biotech secures $20m investment

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Emerging Australian biotechnology company Kira Biotech has secured a $20 million investment to progress its development of new therapies targeting difficult-to-treat immune system disorders.

Kira Biotech’s research program is based on research led by the late Professor Derek Hart and Associate Professor Georgina Clark while working at the Mater Medical Research Institute, the Anzac Research Institute and The University of Sydney.

Other contributors to the research include the CRC for Translational Biomarkers, Sydney Local Health District, the University of Queensland and the University of California in San Francisco.

Associate Professor Clark said the launch of Kira Biotech marks an important moment in her career and highlights the enormous effort by many dedicated scientists to translate research from the bench to bedside.

The investment round was led by OneVentures with significant investment from IP Group and support from the Advance Queensland Business Development Fund.

OneVentures is supported by the federal government's Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF) that was created through the Medical Research Future Fund.

The funds will be used to progress Kira’s lead program KB312 through phase 1 human studies. It is an antibody with a novel target that is common to many immune system disorders and is key to restoration or induction of immune tolerance. 

According to founding CEO, Dr Dan Baker, “Kira’s research program focuses on immune tolerance and targets cells and pathways that are key activators of the immune response in patients with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and type 1 diabetes.

“We’re also keen to look at how KB312 might address transplant complications seen in graft-versus-host disease and rejection associated with heart and kidney transplants.”

“Unlike existing treatments which broadly target immune cells, Kira’s antibody targets a specific activated cell which directs the immune response.  In doing so, KB312 limits the negative impacts of broad immunosuppression and preserves beneficial immune cells that protect patients against infections and malignancies,” continued Dr Baker.

Dr Baker joined Kira following a career in academic medicine as a rheumatologist and immunologist. He also worked in industry as vice president of immunology for Janssen Research and Development.

“OneVentures is delighted to have completed Kira’s Series A fund raising round, secured Dr Dan Baker to its leadership team and in doing so established a new Australian company," said Sarah Meibusch, Principal at OneVentures. 

"The OneVentures Healthcare Fund III is backed by the Australian Government’s Biomedical Translation Fund which is focused on commercialising world-class biomedical innovations here in Australian, and Kira is a terrific example of this.”