San Diego’s Intellikine will be four years old in another month, and CEO Troy Wilson tells me he’s feeling very excited about the venture-backed biotech’s progress so far in developing its pipeline of anti-cancer drugs, including its lead candidate designated INK128.
As Luke has reported previously, Intellikine’s research is focused on PI3K, shorthand for a group of kinase enzymes that help control an important cellular signaling pathway. The PI3K group is made up of four variations, or isoforms, that play slightly different roles in sending signals that help control protein synthesis, blood vessel growth, proliferation, and other cell processes.
Because PI3K enzymes are implicated in a wide variety of solid tumors and blood cancers, the PI3K pathway has become a hot target for cancer research. More than a dozen companies, including Big Pharmas like Novartis, Pfizer, and Bayer, have drug development programs targeting PI3K, as do rival biotechs like Exelixis of South San Francisco and Seattle’s Calistoga Pharmaceuticals, which was recently acquired by Gilead.
But Wilson says he likes the work Intellikine has done so far with INK128, a lead molecule designed to inhibit a key target, mTOR kinase, in a specific part of the PI3K signal pathway known as the TORC1/2 complex. The 30-employee company is planning to begin mid-stage trials of INK128 early next year, says Wilson, who calls INK128 “an exceptional drug candidate.”
Intellikine has raised a total of $62.5 million from investors, and Wilson says the company still has about $22.5 million available to move ahead to the next stage of drug development. Nevertheless, he says Intellikine also is generating strong interest among new investors. “Those discussions are ongoing,” he says, “and it’s likely the company will raise another venture round before the end of the year”.