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After Raising $60M, Kura Oncology Renews Work on Shelved Cancer Drug

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drug in a wide variety of cancers, with mostly disappointing results in colorectal, lung (both non-small cell and small cell), brain, pancreatic, and urothelial cancers.

According to Wilson, about 10 percent of AML patients responded completely to tipifarnib in J&J’s mid-stage clinical trials. The drug also showed promise in patients with peripheral T-cell lymphoma.

But the results for a few patients was not enough to warrant FDA approval, and in 2005, the FDA rejected J&J’s new drug application for tipifarnib, saying “you need to know which patients will respond,” according to Wilson.

Kura has licensed tipfarnib from J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceutica for development and commercialization. The company also raised $60 million through a private placement of its common stock to a group of institutional investors, led by EcoR1 Capital. Fidelity Management & Research, ARCH Venture Partners, Boxer Capital of Tavistock Life Sciences, Partner Fund Management and other healthcare investors also participated.

In conjunction with the private financing, Kura acquired a defunct public company in a reverse merger that will enable Kura to register its stock on the Over-the-Counter Markets within the next couple months.

In addition to holding a doctorate in biorganic chemistry, Wilson has a law degree and experience in corporate financing and securities. But he said the idea for a private stock placement followed by a reverse merger with a public shell corporation was suggested by the investors, who preferred to make their investment in a public company.

Over time, Wilson said the company would likely move from the OTC Markets to the Nasdaq or New York Stock Exchange, which have more rigorous listing requirements.

In forming Kura, Wilson said he has pulled together many senior managers from Intellikine and elsewhere, including the chief scientific officer, Yi Liu; senior vice president of chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences; Pingda Ren, and chief medical officer, Antonio Gualberto.

“We’ve got the cash and we’ve got the people,” Wilson said. “Now we have to execute.”

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