By Mark Terry


New York-based Kallyope and Danish company Novo Nordisk A/S signed a research collaboration and option deal to discover novel therapeutics to treat obesity and diabetes.

Kallyope focuses on what it calls the gut-brain axis. That is to say that the gut, which has millions of neurons and highly specialized cells, communicates with the brain to regulate physiology and behavior, and also has been linked to several diseases.

As part of the deal, Novo Nordisk is paying Kallyope an upfront payment and research support for related activities. Novo Nordisk has an option to license exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize up to six products that might come out of the collaboration. If Novo Nordisk exercises an option to a therapeutic, Kalliope will receive a license fee, research, development and sales milestones, and royalties on worldwide product sales. No financial details were divulged.

Kallyope’s platform integrates single-cell sequencing, bioinformatics, functional and anatomical circuit mapping, and organoids. The two companies will collaborate on in vitro and in vivo research to validate several product candidates. After validation and exercising the option, Novo Nordisk will take over preclinical and clinical development, manufacturing, and commercialization.

“Novo Nordisk is renowned for its expertise in the discovery and development of peptide therapeutics, as well as its commitment to and leadership in therapeutics for obesity and diabetes,” said Nancy Thornberry, chief executive officer of Kallyope, in a statement. “Coupling Novo Nordisk’s formidable capabilities with Kallyope’s unique, sophisticated platform makes for a very attractive strategic collaboration that complements our small molecule focus.”

In February, Kallyope closed on a Series B financing round worth $66 million. All investors from the Series A financing participated, including Lux Capital, The Column Group, Polaris Partners, Illumina Ventures, and Alexandria Venture Investments. New investors were Euclidean Capital and Two Sigma Venture.

The company indicated it had launched several drug discovery programs for modulating gut-brain circuits with gut-restricted molecules. Its initial focus is on metabolic and neurological disorders, but the company says its technology platform and map of gut-brain circuits can be applied to virtually every disease area.

At that time, the company had 40 researchers, and expected to grow to almost 60 employees by the end of 2018.

Tom Maniatis, Kallyope founder and board member said in a statement in February, “Kallyope has developed a unique platform that includes single-cell sequencing, computational biology, optogenetics, chemogenetics, and circuit mapping technologies. By integrating these complementary technologies, Kallyope is building a comprehensive map of gut-brain circuits, which provides fundamentally new insights into gut and gut-brain biology.”

Marcus Schindler, senior vice president, Global Drug Discovery at Novo Nordisk, said of the new deal, “Novo Nordisk is very excited about the opportunity to collaborate with Kallyope. The company has developed a unique and innovative platform and is led by an outstanding leadership team. In combination with the experience that Novo Nordisk has in the disease biology understanding, peptidomics and peptide production, the projects that we will collaborate on hold potential to make a real difference for people living with diabetes and obesity.”



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