Nkarta, Inc. (NKTX)
First Day Turnover9.41%
We are a biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of allogeneic, off-the-shelf engineered natural killer, or NK, cell therapies to treat cancer. Our approach for cellular immunotherapy involves chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs, on the surface of an NK cell that enable the cell to recognize specific proteins or antigens that are present on the surface of tumor cells. The concept of a CAR builds upon and enhances the normal biology of T cells and NK cells, whereby naturally occurring receptors serve to activate these cells when a foreign pathogen or cancerous cell is detected.
Our NK cell engineering platform builds on prior experience and success with engineering T cells and includes proprietary technologies that enable us to generate an abundant supply of NK cells, improve the persistence of these cells for sustained activity in the body, engineer enhanced NK cell recognition of tumor targets and to freeze, store and thaw our engineered NK cells for off-the-shelf use for the treatment of cancer. All of our product candidates are designed to be allogeneic, meaning they are produced using cells from a different person than the patient treated, as well as off-the-shelf, meaning they are produced in quantity, then frozen and therefore available for treating patients without delay, unlike existing autologous cell therapies. Based on published data from a number of clinical trials of NK cell therapies, we believe that engineered NK cells can be well tolerated and avoid some of the toxicities observed with other cell therapies.
Our modular NK cell engineering platform allows us to generate new product candidates in a rapid and cost-efficient manner. Our engineered CAR-NK cells generally consist of an NK cell engineered with a targeting receptor, OX40 costimulatory domain, CD3z signaling moiety, and mbIL-15. This platform is modular, which enables extensive optimization of different ways to enhance the natural signaling of engineered cells, as well as the ability to attach and optimize new targeting receptors. We believe that this will allow us to continue to generate new Investigational New Drugs, or IND, every 9 to 12 months.
Our two co-lead product candidates are NKX101 and NKX019. NKX101 is designed to enhance the power of innate NK biology to detect and kill cancerous cells. The primary activating receptor for NK cells is known as NKG2D, which works through the detection of stress ligands displayed by cancerous cells. We have engineered NKX101 to increase the cancer cell killing ability of our engineered NK cells by raising levels of NKG2D at least ten-fold as compared to non-engineered NK cells and by adding a costimulatory domain, which is an additional signaling element for white blood cells. We submitted our IND for NKX101 for the treatment of relapsed or refractory AML and higher-risk MDS in May 2020. We are planning to initiate a broad clinical program for NKX101 for blood cancers and for solid tumors in 2020. Our initial indications include acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, myelodysplastic syndromes, or MDS, liver cancer, a bile duct cancer known as cholangiocarcinoma, as well as surgically removed colon cancer cases where only liver metastases remain.
NKX019 is based on the ability to treat a variety of B cell malignancies by targeting the CD19 antigen that is found on these types of cancerous cells, where both engineered NK cells and T cells as well as monoclonal antibodies have demonstrated clinical activity. The two approved CAR-T therapies target CD19 and have achieved complete remission rates ranging from 32% to 63% in three pivotal clinical trials. A recent academic publication in the New England Journal of Medicine from Dr. Katayoun Rezvani and colleagues described a cohort of patients treated with a CAR-NK therapy targeting CD19 where seven of 11 (64%) of these patients achieved a complete remission. We are planning to initiate clinical trials for NKX019 in 3Q2021.
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