Gut-brain biotech Kallyope ramps up, bags $66M series B

Columbia University spinout Kallyope launched back in 2015 with $44 million and a mission: to understand how the gut communicates with the brain and discover therapeutic targets. Now, the biotech is building out its technology and, with another $66 million in the bank, plans to advance its pipeline programs and identify new candidates.

All of its series A investors—which include Lux Capital, Polaris Partners, The Column Group, Illumina Ventures and Alexandria Venture Investments—participated in the latest round.

Kallyope CEO Nancy Thornberry kept mum on the details at launch, saying simply, “"Our goal is to develop an industry leading platform,” and "using these technologies to allow us to interrogate gut biology broadly and identify targets."

So what has Kallyope been up to in the interim?

It has been busy putting together its technology platform. Kallyope is using single-cell sequencing, computational biology, opto- and chemogenetics to physically map the circuits between the cells in the gut and the cells in the brain, Thornberry said.

“Once we understand what those circuits are and what they are doing, we can then target them with gut-restricted molecules,” she said.

The gut-brain connection has been implicated in several types of disease, including central nervous system disorders. But Kallyope’s focus, at least for now, is metabolic diseases, with a particular interest in obesity and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), Thornberry said.

The company is also exploring mood disorders and Parkinson’s disease, where targeting the brain directly has been challenging, thanks to the blood-brain barrier.

Kallyope started life with eight employees, and plans to triple its workforce in 2016. Now with a staff of 44, the company is ready to advance its programs toward the clinic and is looking to bolster its ranks to 60 by the end of the year.