A New Yale Faculty Startup Will Harness the Immune System to Fight Disease

Dr. David Spiegel, Professor of Chemistry and Pharmacology at Yale, is launching a new startup, Kleo Pharmaceuticals, that will harness the body’s own defenses to fight a number of diseases. Kleo relies on Spiegel’s patented immunotherapies—small molecules that can either recruit antibodies to a disease site or mimic the function of antibodies.

“I’ve been working on ways to use small molecules to modulate and manipulate the immune system,” Spiegel says. “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 recently received an initial funding round led by Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding Company, Ltd. which will support the company’s development platform of the small molecules known as Antibody Recruiting Molecules (ARMs) and Synthetic Antibody Mimics (SyAMs).

“Kleo’s groundbreaking technology opens up exciting new paths in the development of innovative immunotherapies,” said Declan Doogan, M.D., Chairman of Biohaven Pharmaceuticals. “We were drawn to this opportunity by both the strength of the technology and the ambitious vision Dr. Spiegel has for applying it to advance treatment options for patients across a wide range of indications.” 

Dr. Spiegel received support for commercializing these discoveries through the Office of Cooperative Research (OCR), the Yale office that assists in every stage of the go-to-market process from patent filing, to market assessment, to connections with partners and funders. “OCR introduced me to countless venture capital firms, investors, potential partners, CEO candidates and operations partners,” Spiegel said.

Dr. David Lewin, Senior Associate Director of Licensing at OCR, has worked with Dr. Spiegel for eight years, a partnership which culminated in the founding of Kleo. “Dr. Spiegel is a pioneer in the field of chemical immunomodulation,” Lewin says. “He has been a tireless advocate for this technology and its promise for patients. That level of commitment is vital to moving a new technology forward.” Yale initially partnered Spiegel’s small molecules against prostate cancer with Allied-Bristol Life Sciences which helped to de-risk the platform for later investors in Kleo.

“Yale is clearly committed to nurturing entrepreneurship for faculty,” Spiegel said. “It’s good for both the entrepreneurial and the intellectual environment.” He notes that an increasing number of graduate students, too, are coming to his lab who are interested in the commercial uses of chemistry and in starting their own companies.

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Office of Cooperative Research and Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, (203)804-1911, brita.belli@yale.edu.