University of Michigan
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March 19, 2018

Biopharmaceutical startup with U-M technology goes public

November 12, 2015

Biopharmaceutical startup with U-M technology goes public

Kura Oncology Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company that develops therapies for cancer patients, is now trading on the NASDAQ after an initial public offering.

The technology behind the company comes from researchers at the University of Michigan, Wellspring Biosciences, Janssen Pharmaceutica and the University of California, San Francisco.

One of the company's programs is based on work conducted by Jolanta Grembecka, assistant professor of pathology, and Tomasz Cierpicki, assistant professor of pathology and biophysics. They designed a series of menin-MLL inhibitors, the first small molecule compounds targeting the protein interaction responsible for an acute form of leukemia.

The U-M program was licensed to California-based Kura Oncology this year.

Subsequent research has shown that these same small molecule inhibitors may have potential for treating prostate, brain and liver cancer. Grembecka and Cierpicki successfully developed a number of small molecule compounds targeting protein interactions involved in MLL fusion leukemia — a rare, aggressive and lethal disease.

Each year, about 3,200 new cases of MLL leukemia are reported in the U.S., most of them among infants and children. One day, these compounds could enable thousands of patients to successfully manage a disease that currently has a five-year survival rate of just 35 percent.

"We're excited at the impressive progress made by Kura Oncology in such a short period of time," said Ken Nisbet, associate vice president for research ­— technology transfer. "We're also proud of the contribution of our University of Michigan technology to the treatments being developed by Kura Oncology for acute leukemia and other cancers."

Kura priced its IPO of 6.2 million shares at $8 a share on Nov. 4.