With $60 million, cancer drug develops

With an infusion of $60 million, New Haven-based Kolltan Pharmaceuticals is primed to develop a drug targeting malignancies in cancer patients.

Earlier this year, the drug passed Phase I development after being successfully tested on a small group of subjects to ensure its safety, determine the appropriate level of dosage, and identify potential side effects. Now with millions in funding from a group of investors, Kolltan plans to advance the drug into Phase II testing to measure effectiveness on a larger sample of subjects. The drug in development, called KTN3379, blocks a receptor that is overly abundant in solid tumors.

Michael Vlock, a representative with KLP Enterprises, one of the leading investing groups in this stage of funding, said his company was particularly drawn to Kolltan for its scientific backing.

Yale chair of pharmacology Joseph Schlessinger co-founded Kolltan in 2007, using drug targets uncovered in his laboratory work. Schlessinger previously founded Sugen and Plexxikon, two other biotechs in Connecticut on the front line of critical drug research.

“This is a remarkably exciting and promising platform for oncology,” Vlock said. “Drug development is not an inexpensive or short-term program, and this is a company with a very deep [research and development division], and we are happy to be a part of the additional financing.”

Vlock said Yale’s Office of Cooperative Research (OCR) reached out to KLP to raise funds when the company first started. According to OCR Director Jon Soderstrom, Schlessinger, Kolltan CEO Gerald McMahon and Chairman of the Board Arthur Altschul. were all instrumental in identifying potential investors.

Kolltan is recruiting four full-time employees to support the progression of KTN3379’s clinical studies, as well as other drug development, said Justin Jackson, executive Vice President of Burns McClellan — a life sciences communication group representing Kolltan. Kolltan has also already expanded its footprint in its 300 George Street office space.

“Entering Phase II is an important step for a company like this conducting a clinical program for a number of reasons, a key one being that it gives an early indication of the drug’s potential activity in the selected patients,” Jackson said.

Beyond funding KTN3379, McMahon said Kolltan plans to spend a portion of the $60 million to advance two preclinical drugs for cancer treatment.

Soderstrom said that further drug development could have a significant impact on the New Haven economy.

“Kolltan’s continuing success in developing and expanding its pipeline of development candidates is creating significant positive interest from the investment community,” Soderstrom said. “Kolltan’s success helps convince investors that successful biotechnology companies can grow and flourish in New Haven.”

Since its founding in 2007, Kolltan has raised roughly $135 million.

Correction: April 8

A previous version of this article mistakenly stated the name of Michael Vlock as Michael Locke. 

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