New Kala CEO plans to raise funds for particle tech programs

The startup biotech Kala Pharmaceuticals has taken another step forward in its journey to the clinic. The Waltham, MA-based developer of mucus-penetrating particle treatments--one of Robert Langer's portfolio of startups--has wooed Guillaume Pfefer into the top spot. And he's coming with some near-term plans to add to its bank reserves as the company prepares to push into the clinic with its first program in 2013.

Pfefer is arriving in the Boston area after leaving his job as general manager of sanofi pasteur in Mexico City, excited by the prospects of a technology that recalls his days as a grad student at the National School for Chemical Engineering in France. Kala includes MIT Professor Langer--who has some close connections with early-stage investors in the Boston area--as one of its founders.  

"I was intrigued and already emotionally attached to the technology," Pfefer told me. He adds that this is his first early-stage company. So far, Kala has raised about $11 million in seed money from a range of VCs, including the prolific Third Rock. And with 14 staffers, including a number of Ph.D.s on staff, Pfefer expects to raise a new round by the end of the year as the group preps its first clinical study.

Pfefer is likely to become even more attached to the particle technology that Justin Hanes--a Johns Hopkins investigator and former MIT grad student under Langer--crafted by studying the particular viruses which were able to get through the mucus barrier. Using the technology they can target a drug specifically to mucus tissue and then calibrate how long it remains active there. The technology has a wide range of possible applications, but its potential is particularly strong in cystic fibrosis, ocular disease and ailments associated with the gastrointestinal tract and female reproductive system.

Like other startups with a platform technology, Kala is looking to do some collaboration deals early on. You can find out more about Pfeffer in the press release. -- John Carroll, Editor-in-Chief. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.