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Gut-Brain Therapies Biotech Raises $66M in New Funds

Brain circuits

(NIH.gov)

22 February 2018. A 2 year-old biotechnology enterprise discovering new treatments for disease that harness signals between the gut and brain is raising $66 million its second venture financing round. New York-based Kallyope Inc. says all of the company’s original investors are taking part in the funding round, as well as 2 new investors.

Kallyope discovers new therapies addressing what it calls the gut-brain axis, based on bi-directional signaling pathways from the gut to the brain, and targeting disorders affected by those signals. The company’s first task is a comprehensive mapping of these circuits, involving several regions in the gut and brain connected to the gut-brain axis. These regions include enteroendocrine cells found in the lining of the intestine, the enteric nervous system regulating endocrine and immune functions, the vagus nerve connecting the brain and a number of organs in the body, and the central nervous system overall.

Kallyope is discovering treatments for diseases caused by disruptions in these connections, including metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, the liver disease nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH, and gastrointestinal inflammation. The company also focuses on diseases of the central nervous system, such as depression, autism, and Parkinson’s disease. Kallyope says its platform includes single-cell sequencing of RNA transcribed from genetic codes, and computational biology with its own software to identify potential treatment targets involving behavior and physiology from single cell analysis.

The company also says its platform can map individual cells in the gut to neurons in the central nervous system. This mapping makes it possible to identify individual gut-brain connections, as well as interconnections among affected neurons. In addition, Kallyope says it maps gut-brain circuits to physiological and behavioral functions, providing the ability to activate cell types with light waves or small-molecule chemicals to express desired proteins. The company says these tools provide the ability to engage gut-brain circuits, determine their functions, and discover pathways for treating disorders of those functions.

Kallyope is a spin-off company from Columbia University founded by 3 of its researchers in neuroscience and physiology. Richard Axel, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2004, studies sensory stimulation, particularly the sense of smell, which has basic and wide-ranging functions for many animal species. Biochemist and neuroscientist Charles Zuker also studies sensory cell signaling and information processing. including the senses of taste and space. Tom Maniatis, who chairs Columbia’s biochemistry and molecular biophysics department, researches genetics of the nervous system as well as harnessing stem cells in therapies for degenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. He also leads the university’s precision medicine program.

As reported by Science & Enterprise, Kallyope started-up in December 2015, raising $44 million its first venture round. All of the original funders from the earlier round are taking part in the new $66 million financing — Lux Capital, The Column Group, Polaris Partners, Illumina Ventures, and Alexandria Venture Investments — joined by new investors Euclidean Capital and Two Sigma Ventures.

Nancy Thornberry, Kallyope’s CEO, says in a company statement that the new financing, “gives us significant runway to continue to advance our innovative research and unlock the broad potential of the gut-brain axis.” Maniatis adds, “Kallyope is building a comprehensive map of gut-brain circuits, which provides fundamentally new insights into gut and gut-brain biology.”

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