Galway’s ONK Therapeutics raises $21.5m to defeat cancers

ONK Therapeutics is an innovative cell therapy platform company with global growth in its midst.

ONK Therapeutics, an innovative Galway business creating a NK (natural killer) cell therapy platform to combat various cancers, has raised $12.5m in a Series A round led by current investors Acorn Bioventures and ALSHC, joined by new investor Cormorant Asset Management.

The business is targeting three oncology areas, including relapsed multiple myeloma and acute myeloid leukaemia, which are cancers of the blood, as well as solid cancer tumours in areas including ovarian, breast and lung cancer.

“This financing will allow us to continue to deliver against our focused strategy, funding significant program progression, organizational development, and company growth”

The financing will drive multiple pre-clinical programmes through innovative new drug (IND) enabling studies and the continued progression of a GMP (good manufacturing practice) manufacturing capability.

ONK’s pipeline currently has three programmes in pre-clinical development across both hematological malignancies and solid tumors.

The company is pioneering optimally engineered NK cell therapies, utilising a suite of engineering strategies to optimize cytotoxic potential, metabolic health and persistence of NK cells, while reducing the potential for their exhaustion in the tumor microenvironment. This is made possible through the company’s ability to achieve unique proprietary gene edits.

“We thank our existing investors for their continued support and are pleased to welcome Cormorant Asset Management as a new investor and Andy Phillips to our Board, as we continue against our goal to optimally engineer, off-the-shelf, NK cell therapies to potentially cure patients with cancer,” said Chris Nowers, ONK Therapeutics’ CEO.

“This financing will allow us to continue to deliver against our focused strategy, funding significant program progression, organizational development, and company growth. Within the next 18 months, we have the potential for multiple IND approvals to enable our evolution into a clinical-stage company.”

ONK was founded in 2015, by Prof. Michael O’Dwyer MD, of NUI Galway, an expert in translational multiple myeloma research, the tumor microenvironment, and exploitation of NK cells as cellular immunotherapy.

The business has an exclusive global patent license agreement with Australia’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) providing the Company with rights to CISH knockout (KO) in the field of human NK cells for the treatment of cancer, irrespective of the NK cell source. CISH KO is a highly researched edit in NK cells for which the first US patent has since been granted to WEHI. It also has a subsidiary in San Diego.

Commenting on the investment, Isaac Manke, partner at Acorn Bioventures said, “Over the 12 months of our investment, ONK Therapeutics has made excellent progress in advancing both its innovative next-generation NK cell therapy platform and across its exciting portfolio of pre-clinical assets. We are pleased to continue our support and to have introduced Cormorant Asset Management as a new investor to join with ourselves and founding investor ALSHC.”

Andy Phillips, managing director at Cormorant Asset Management added: “We are impressed by the Company’s potential to make a highly innovative contribution to the quickly evolving field of NK cell therapies, which we believe have the opportunity to improve the lives of patients in need of new treatments for their disease. We are pleased to join the current investor groups in financing ONK as it looks forward to important proof of principle in vivo data and additional value catalyzing milestones.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.