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Bristol-Myers vet Douglas Manion bids Big Pharma farewell, takes the helm at Yale spinout Kleo

A 12-year veteran of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s R&D group is joining the migration of research execs out of Big Pharma and into up-and-coming biotech.

Douglas Manion

Douglas Manion is hanging up his spurs as head of specialty development for BMS and taking over as CEO of an upstart named Kleo Pharmaceuticals, which is pursuing new drugs spotlighted in the lab of Yale’s David Spiegel. Kleo’s focus is on small molecules that can do the job a wave of biologics have been doing in spurring an immune system attack.

David Spiegel

“I’ve been working on ways to use small molecules to modulate and manipulate the immune system,” Spiegel told Yale News recently. “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.”

Kleo itself is backed by Biohaven, which burst out of obscurity after grabbing a CGRP migraine drug from Bristol-Myers Squibb as a lead therapy and then hit Wall Street a month ago with a $168 million IPO score.

Funding at Kleo hasn’t been spelled out, but Biohaven — another Yale spinout led by Vlad Coric — offered the unspecified Series A in exchange for equity, giving the startup connections with some of the best-heeled investors in biotech. Biohaven $BHVN burned through more than $75 million, but raised more than $100 million from a group that included crossover investor RA Capital, which delights in coming into a deal about a year ahead of what the MBA crowd likes to call a value inflection point.

Biohaven’s deal with Kleo gives it development rights for the new drugs discovered at the smaller biotech.

Over the past few years we’ve seen a long lineup of pharma R&D execs hanging up their lab coats at the giants and moving to startups, which have been attracting billions in venture and other investment cash.  Manion is the latest. He won’t be the last.


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