SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., July 25, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Kezar Life Sciences, a private, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing novel small molecule therapeutics targeting the immunoproteasome and the protein secretion pathway, announced today that it has closed an oversubscribed Series B investment round of $50 million led by Cormorant Asset Management and Morningside Venture. New investors participating in the financing include Cowen Healthcare Investments, Pappas Ventures, Qiming Venture Partners and Bay City Capital, joined by additional existing investors EcoR1 Capital, Omega Funds, and Aju IB Investment. Kezar has now raised a total of $73 million since its inception in 2015.
Kezar also announced the successful completion of the Company's Phase 1a healthy volunteer study with their lead drug candidate, KZR-616, a first-in-class selective immunoproteasome inhibitor. The placebo-controlled study enrolled a total of eighty-two subjects, sixty-one of which received single or multiple doses at varying dose levels. The trial identified multiple doses that resulted in desired levels of inhibition of the immunoproteasome and that were well tolerated with repeat dose administration. Additional results from the study are anticipated to be presented at the American College of Rheumatology's Annual Meeting in San Diego in November.
"We are pleased with the results of our healthy volunteer study, and grateful for the support of such an excellent group of investors to finance our upcoming clinical trials," said John Fowler, CEO of Kezar Life Sciences. "The strong demand for this financing reflects growing excitement for the potential of immunoproteasome inhibition in treating autoimmune disorders and recognizes the clear leadership position enjoyed by Kezar."
Christopher Kirk PhD, President and CSO, added, "These initial clinical trial results demonstrate that KZR-616 is achieving the desired levels of immunoproteasome inhibition that correlate with anti-inflammatory activity seen in laboratory models. By selectively targeting the immunoproteasome, we believe we can avoid the toxicities associated with dual proteasome inhibitors like VELCADE™ and KYPROLIS™, as exhibited by the early safety findings from this study."
As a part of the new financing, Bihua Chen, the Founder of Cormorant Asset Management, will join the Kezar Life Sciences Board of Directors. "Cormorant is pleased to support Kezar as it enters an exciting series of patient studies, the first ever with a selective immunoproteasome inhibitor," said Ms. Chen. "While much work remains, I believe KZR-616 has the potential to be a transformative treatment in autoimmunity."
About Immunoproteasome Inhibition and KZR-616
Protein degradation is a key process in the function and survival of all mammalian cells and is mediated by the ubiquitously expressed proteasome. Inhibitors of the proteasome, such as VELCADE™ and KYPROLIS™, are currently used to treat multiple myeloma, a plasma cell malignancy. In cells of the immune system, such as T-cells, a unique form of the proteasome, termed the immunoproteasome, is expressed. The immunoproteasome regulates multiple aspects of immune responses and selective inhibitors, such as KZR-616, are well tolerated and highly active in mouse models of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, and lupus.
About Kezar Life Sciences
Based in South San Francisco, Kezar Life Sciences is a privately-held, clinical stage company developing novel small molecule therapeutics to treat autoimmune disorders and malignant diseases. Kezar's lead drug candidate, KZR-616, leverages more than a decade of research directed by co-founder Christopher Kirk into the unique role of the immunoproteasome in immune cell biology. In addition, Kezar is pursuing drug discovery programs targeting protein secretion and transmembrane protein expression that include a structured research collaboration with UC San Francisco. Kezar Life Sciences is backed by leading life sciences investors, including Cormorant Asset Management, Morningside Venture, Cowen Health Care Investments, EcoR1 Capital, Omega Funds, Pappas Ventures, Qiming Venture Partners, Bay City Capital, and Aju IB Investment. For more information, please visit www.kezarlifesciences.com
Ben Matone, Burns McClellan, Inc., on behalf of Kezar Life Sciences