Kleo taps PeptiDream for help with immuno-oncology programs

New Haven-based biotech develops small-molecule antibody mimics.

Kleo Pharmaceuticals' new CEO Douglas Mannion has made his first play in the new role, cutting a deal with Japan's PeptiDream to step up its pursuit of immuno-oncology drug candidates.

The Tokyo-based company will apply its peptide-hunting technology to try to find molecules active against a range of cancer targets selected by Kleo, which will then engineer them into drug candidates.

Mannion—an ex-Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline and DuPont exec who took over the helm of Kleo from co-founder David Spiegel last month—said the new deal "represents a truly potent partnership that will generate many more effective targeted treatments for patients."

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New Haven, Connecticut-based Kleo focuses on two drug discovery platforms, Antibody-Recruiting Molecule (ARM) and Synthetic Antibody Mimic (SyAM), which endeavor to engineer small-molecule drugs that can mimic the effects of antibodies but are much easier to manufacture, easier to deliver to patients and potentially safer as they are less likely to cause immune reactions.

The platforms stem for Spiegel's work at Yale University which showed that synthetic molecules can be constructed to target disease cells and direct the immune system to destroy them. In the case of both ARMs and SyAMs, double-headed molecule are created that bind to cancer-related antigens at one end, and antibodies already present in the body at the other.

Two-year old Kleo has already had some recognition for its technology platform after winning the Boehringer Ingelheim Innovation Prize in 2015, and has completed a Series A financing led by Biohaven Pharmaceuticals—without revealing the amount raised.

PeptiDream's role in the new collaboration will be to find synthetic 'macrocyclic/constrained' peptides, a relatively new class of drug-like compounds that offer the targeting accuracy of larger molecules and multiple active sites but are still small enough for oral delivery and can pass cross cell membranes to hit intracellular targets.

The Japanese company has been steadily building a series of pharma collaborations focusing on peptide therapeutics, most recently forging a $1.15 billion agreement with Johnson & Johnson for a program looking at cardiovascular and metabolic targets.

PeptiDream will get a tiered share of proceeds from any products that arise from the collaboration with Kleo based on how much it funds development, but specific financial terms were not disclosed.