Alloy and Pyxis spin out new 'company' around high-risk I/O, immunology targets
When CEO Lara Sullivan and the team at Pyxis sat down in 2019 to see which of the many targets from Thomas Gajewski’s immuno-oncology lab they would try to drug, there were too many for any startup to pursue at once. They prioritized the targets they thought had the best chance of success, leaving the rest for some future date.
That date came sooner than expected. Last year, the team at Alloy Therapeutics —the conglomerate of biotech services, technologies and spinouts backed by billionaire investor Peter Thiel — got wind of all that Pyxis was leaving on the table. Now, the two are spinning out a new company, Kyma Therapeutics, dedicated to finding antibodies that can hit two of the high-risk targets, potentially opening up paths to treatments in cancer and immunology.
“We would describe Pyxis as a very target-rich company. They have a great pipeline of their own molecules and they had a whole bunch of really good, other interesting target ideas and they weren’t going to be able to prosecute all of them in 2020,” Alloy CEO Errik Anderson told Endpoints News. So Anderson’s team said, “Hey, we’ve got infrastructure, where we could prosecute those targets quickly — make human monoclonal antibodies and test them in a really efficient way.”
The second spinout Alloy has launched in the past year, Kyma is for now effectively a well-branded partnership masquerading as a biotech company. It has no full-time employees and is governed by a “joint-steering committee.” Its operation consists mainly of Alloy using its humanized mice to develop antibodies against Pyxis targets and then sending the antibodies back to Pyxis for testing — roughly the same outline that now governs hundreds of collaborations across the industry.
Anderson, though, said the legal framework gives them greater flexibility than they would under a normal partnership, allowing both sides to avoid tiresome negotiations. They can add new targets as they go, and they can decide down the road as new data arrive whether Pyxis should reabsorb Kyma and develop the antibodies in-house, or whether they should eventually raise capital, hire a few employees, and launch Kyma as a full-fledged company.
Chris Pacheco, a venture partner at Alloy’s venture studio 82VS, said the format allows them to develop the science further before putting real money behind it.
“It’s to test out these hypotheses,” he told Endpoints. “Get to a place where you actually have assets in hand and actual biological data to support it, as opposed to just building a team around concepts on paper.”
Pyxis was launched to go after new immuno-oncology targets discovered in Gajewski’s lab, taking the field out of PD-1, CTLA4, LAG-3 and TIGIT and into new, uncharted, acronymic terrain. But the company has yet to disclose any of those targets.
Similarly, Alloy is staying tight-lipped on Kyma. Anderson said only that one target was in immuno-oncology and one target was for immunology, that neither had been targeted in the clinic yet and that both were designed to help “non-responders.” Would that mean cancer patients non-responsive to PD-1?
“Potentially yes,” he said. “Or perhaps even other mechanistic non-responders, when you understand the mechanism of non-response.”
A minute later, he added: “Imagine your immune cells don’t work the way they should.”