Kleo Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biotechnology company founded on the research of Yale professor of pharmacology and chemistry David Spiegel MED ’04 GRD ’04, is now launching after having recently completed its first significant round of venture capital financing. The New Haven-based startup is pioneering a new class of immunotherapies which use small molecules to recruit an individual’s own immune system to fight against diseases such as cancer and autoimmune disorders.
Begun in 2015, Kleo’s imminent immune therapies will use Antibody Recruiting Molecules and Synthetic Antibody Mimics (SyAMs) to target pathogens in the bloodstream.
The company’s initial funding round was provided on Sept. 1 by Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding Company, Ltd, a biotech specializing in late-stage clinical development that has a portfolio of multiple late-stage drug assets. Spiegel called combining Kleo’s expertise in ARMs and SyAMs with Biohaven’s investment and development work an “ideal collaboration.” Kleo has assembled a team of experts, some of whom are Yale researchers, who have extensive experience in the development of therapeutic agents.
“Kleo’s groundbreaking technology opens up exciting new paths in the development of innovative immunotherapies,” Biohaven Pharmaceuticals Chairman Declan Doogan told Yale News. “We were drawn to this opportunity by both the strength of the technology and the ambitious vision Dr. Spiegel has for applying it to advance treatment options for patients across a wide range of indications.”
ARMs are two-headed chemical structures designed such that one head interacts with disease-relevant molecular targets, while the other head interacts directly with antibodies — disease fighting proteins used to identify pathogens — already present in an individual’s body. SyAMs are novel synthetic molecules that possess both the targeting and cell-activating functions of antibodies. This research has the potential to cure or alleviate the symptoms of several life-threatening disorders including cancer and autoimmune disorders, Spiegel said.
“I’ve been working on ways to use small molecules to modulate and manipulate the immune system,” Spiegel said. “Essentially we are redirecting the body’s own immune defenses to go after disease-causing entities, including bacteria, cancer cells, autoimmune disease and virus particles.”
In addition to Biohaven, Spiegel turned for support to the Yale Office of Cooperative Research, which assists in every stage of the go-to-market process from patent filing, to market assessment, to connections with partners and sources of funding. Spiegel said that OCR introduced him to several venture capital firms, investors, potential partners, CEO candidates and operations partners.
David Lewin, senior associate director of licensing at OCR, has worked closely with Spiegel for eight years in order to make Kleo a reality. Lewin said that while his office had been involved with the startup since its start, it is only in the past few years that Spiegel’s technology became robust enough to interest both investors and pharmaceutical companies. Lewin said that while Kleo is already virtually “up and running,” the recent funding should allow it to transform into a “brick-and-mortar” enterprise in Science Park within approximately six months.
Additionally Lewin said that he is optimistic about the future of Kleo and hopes to see Spiegel’s unique immunotherapies attract widespread appeal, both in the U.S. and worldwide.
“It is always our hope that a Yale solution becomes a global solution,” Lewin said.
Biohaven announced that it had provided funding to Kleo Pharmaceuticals on Sept. 1.