New York Biotech Kallyope Launches with $44 Million and a Merck & Co. Vet at Its Helm

New York Biotech Kallyope Launches with $44 Million and a Merck & Co. Vet at Its Helm
December 10, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

NEW YORK -- Kallyope Inc., a new biotech company focused on harnessing the potential of the gut-brain axis, launched this morning backed by $44 million in Series A funding and is being helmed by Nancy Thornberry, a Merck & Co. vet with a specialty in diabetes and endocrinology.

New York-based Kallyope was founded with an idea of harnessing the communicative pathways between the digestive tract and the brain to develop therapies to treat various illnesses. Thornberry said the company’s approach would not have been possible a few years ago, but since the discovery of the “gut-brain circuits” the company can develop a range of therapeutic approaches.

In an interview with Forbes, Thornberry said the company’s technology will look at ways in which cells in the intestines actually affect the brain, signaling such things as whether or not the body is still hungry, or if there is some sort of discomfort. She said the technology can help the company focus on several disease areas, as well as a possibility of developing consumer products. However, what those areas are, the company has not yet disclosed. The company said it will leverage cutting-edge technologies including sequencing, genetics, circuit mapping, neural imaging and bioinformatics.

“The gut-brain axis functions as a two-way information highway between the gut and the brain, providing an unprecedented opportunity to access and influence brain centers involved in a variety of fundamental human processes. Kallyope has put together an exciting, state-of-the-art program to understand how the gut communicates with other organs and our brains about our physiological, metabolic and internal state," Tom Maniatis, a co-founder of Kallyope and a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a statement.

Thornberry told Forbes the company’s technology would have likely been able to discover the GLP-1 (glucagon like peptide-1) which can be used to treat diabetes. GLP-1-based drugs are manufactured by a number of companies, including Danish-based Novo Nordisk . Novo Nordisk manufactures several GLP-1 diabetes treatments, including Victoza, which is marketed under the brand name Saxend in the United States. In April, Novo Nordisk announced its Saxend, a once-daily glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist for chronic weight management in adults, was available for sale in the United States. Obese individuals often develop type 2 diabetes.

The company is backed by investments from Lux Capital, Polaris Partners and The Column Group. Other notable investors include Illumina Inc. , Tony Evnin, and Alexandria Venture Investments, Kallyope said in a statement.

"What Kallyope is doing represents a hugely exciting venture into the untapped therapeutic and nutritional potential of the gut-brain axis, which no other biotech has unlocked and translated. We believe that Kallyope is pioneering an area of science that will fundamentally change how drugs and nutritional products are made, targeted, and administered," Josh Wolfe, Kallyope board member and managing partner of Lux Capital, said in a statement.

Kallyope has taken over laboratory space at the Alexandria Center for Life Science, a state-of-the-art, collaborative life science campus in Manhattan. Kallyope said the location will allow it to “draw upon the city's deep talent pool and diverse resources.”

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