A year ago, a joint venture between Bristol-Myers Squibb and Allied Minds picked up some immuno-oncology molecules from the lab of Yale’s David Spiegel. Now his work on Antibody Recruiting Molecules — which lure in antibodies to a specific surface protein in order to destroy diseased cells — is being used to spin out a new biotech called Kleo Pharmaceuticals, which plans to go after cancer and infectious diseases.
Spiegel, credited as Kleo’s founder, had this to say to Yale News about the work:
“I’ve been working on ways to use small molecules to modulate and manipulate the immune system. 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.”
Manipulating the immune system to go after disease targets has become all the rage in biotech, attracting billions of dollars in financing as competitors crowd into the field. Eventually, there is likely to be a reckoning over who has the best technology and drugs, but there’s a definite gold rush atmosphere in the air today.
The funding is still only vaguely outlined. New Haven-based Biohaven Pharmaceutical is providing an unspecified Series A. Kleo is supposed to do the chemical discovery work while Biohaven handles the development effort. Biohaven is run by Bristol-Myers vet Vlad Coric, whose resume includes work on Opdivo and Yervoy.
Spiegel also had this to say recently in a prepared statement:
“Biologics have been the gold standard for immunotherapies. With ARMs and SyAMs (synthetic ARMS), we have the opportunity to raise that bar. Our ability to rationally design and synthesize small molecules that emulate the functionality of biologics represents a great advancement in the field. Our molecules are hundreds of times lighter than their biological counterparts and thus may infiltrate tissue more efficiently than large proteins. These small molecules are easier to produce, more tractable to engineer, and non-immunogenic. It’s a tremendously exciting time.”
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