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Bicoastal startup Kriya Therapeutics to grow gene therapy manufacturing in NC

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — There’s a new biotech company setting up shop in the Triangle, and it’s flush with cash and headed up by some big names in the industry.

Meet Kriya Therapeutics – the brainchild of Dr. Shankar Ramaswamy, former chief business officer for Axovant Gene Therapies; Fraser Wright, co-founder of Sparks Therapeutics; and Roger Jeffs, the former United Therapeutics CEO who has deep roots in North Carolina.

Launched in 2019, the biotech startup has dual headquarters in Durham and Palo Alto, California, and is billing itself as a “next-generation gene therapy company” focused on designing and developing treatments for highly prevalent and severe chronic conditions, like diabetes and obesity.

Earlier this month, it arrived in a big way after securing $80.5 million in Series A financing — during a pandemic.

“It’s never easy. But it’s a really significant pool of capital for us so we’re thankful to have been able to get it done,” Ramaswamy, Kriya’s CEO, told NC Biotech in a video interview this week. “[Our] investors have a very long term vision of what a next generation gene therapy company could look like, and we’re very supportive building towards that vision.”

Among the investors: QVT, Dexcel Pharma, Foresite Capital, Bluebird Ventures (associated with Sutter Hill Ventures), Narya Capital, Amplo, Paul Manning, and Asia Alpha. The round followed an initial seed financing led by Transhuman Capital late last year.

“It’s is a milestone for the company and sets us up for success to go out and execute on the things that we really want to get done.”

READY TO SCALE

Ramaswamy says the company is now ready to scale, and is focused on building out its teams on both coasts.

“We expect to grow very quickly both here in the Bay Area and in North Carolina,” he said, emphasizing the Triangle’s importance as its manufacturing hub. “That could be dozens of employees [here] in the not so distant future, if not larger over time.”​

How it will work: co-founders Ramaswamy and Wright will be based in the Bay area along with finance operations and early-stage research.

Meanwhile, in Durham, co-founder Jeffs will lead a team focused on development and manufacturing. It will include Britt Petty, AveXis’ former head of global manufacturing and Melissa Rhodes, former chief development officer at Altavant Sciences; and Mitch Lower, another Avexis veteran.

“I don’t view North Carolina as a satellite office. That’s where we’ll be building our internal manufacturing infrastructure to solve for one of the key bottlenecks in gene therapy, which is manufacturing capacity and quality,” said Ramaswamy​.

“There’s a very strong pool of talent in North Carolina, especially in biologics manufacturing. And [our team] has a very strong track record and history of success with biologics manufacturing, and strong experience there as well. So we think it’s a great place to be, given the past couple of decades, where there have been so many successful products actually manufactured in North Carolina.”

Already, Kriya has a number of gene therapies in the pipeline.

Among them: KT-A112, an investigational gene therapy administered by intramuscular injection that delivers the genes to produce insulin and glucokinase for type 1 and type 2 diabetes; KT-A522, an investigational gene therapy administered by salivary gland injection that delivers the gene to produce a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist for type 2 diabetes and severe obesity; and KT-A83, an investigational gene therapy administered by intrapancreatic injection that delivers the gene to produce modified insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1) for type 1 diabetes.

The team is currently set up in a temporary office in Durham, but plans to move into a more permanent space somewhere in the Research Triangle in the near future.​

“Kriya is building a leading team and cutting-edge infrastructure to engineer best-in-class gene therapies for severe chronic conditions and accelerate their advancement into human clinical trials,” said Jeffs, its vice chairman. “Through its R&D laboratory capabilities in the Bay Area and in-house process development and manufacturing infrastructure in Research Triangle Park, I believe that Kriya will be uniquely positioned to become a leader in the gene therapy field.”

(c) North Carolina Biotechnology Center

Original Article Source: WRAL TechWire