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GEN News Highlights: June 16, 2017

Checkmate Raises $27M to Develop Drug that Aids Cancer Checkpoint Inhibition

  • Checkmate Pharmaceuticals raised $27 million in a Series B preferred financing round to fund continued development of its early-clinical-stage anticancer candidate CMP-001, a first-in-class CpG-A oligonucleotide in development as combination therapy to help improve the efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors. The fundraising was led by new investor F-Prime Capital Partners. Existing investors Sofinnova and venBioPartners also participated.

    CMP-001 comprises a CpG-A oligonucleotide packaged within a virus-like particle (VLP) and is designed to activate the innate immune system via Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) and mediate tumor control by inducing both innate and adaptive antitumor immune responses. The candidate is being evaluated in an open-label Phase Ib study in combination with pembrolizumab in patients with primary refractory melanoma that has either progressed on, or failed to respond to, anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (anti-PD-1) therapy. Cambridge, MA-based Checkmate says combining pembrolizumab with CMP-001 has the potential to both increase the proportion of patients who respond to the checkpoint inhibitor, as well as improve the strength and duration of antitumor responses.

    The latest investment in Checkmate will support more advanced trials with CMP-001 in melanoma, as well as combination therapy trials in other indications. “Checkmate is making excellent progress in demonstrating that CMP-001 in combination with pembrolizumab is providing clinical benefit to PD-1-refractory patients with advanced melanoma,” commented Ben Auspitz, partner at F-Prime Capital Partners.

    Checkmate licensed its clinically validated VLP platform, related oligonucleotoide synthesis IP, and clinical candidate CMP-001 (previously CYT003) from Cytos Biotechnology (now Kuros Biotechnology) in 2015, in parallel with raising $20 million in Series A round of fundraising. CMP-001 had previously demonstrated a good safety profile and evidence of immune activity in more than 700 subjects in clinical trials for nononcology indications.