Last week, I was in Bio Spring Europe and I met Alain Vicari, Calypso Biotech’s CEO:
What is Calypso Biotech?
Calypso Biotech discovers and develops antibody therapies for indications in gastro-intestinal diseases. The company tackles on niche diseases, with therapeutic antibodies against difficult targets. Calypso was founded in Geneva, in 2013, as a spin-off of Merck-Serono.
The portfolio includes two preclinical programs. The first is for fistulizing Crohn’s disease in which current treatments available are still not very useful, including biologics. The second is for refractory celiac disease, an ultra-rare life-threatening condition, with no competitors on the market. Calypso Biotech will address clear unmet needs for patients suffering from these diseases.
Calypso Biotech was funded with €2,5M by MS-Ventures, the Merck Serono corporate venture arm. The startup is well supported by a scientific board of clinicians specialized in digestive diseases like Brian Feagan, one of the best gastroenterologist physician. Merck board of directors is also here to support Calypso, including Ipsen’s SVP Global Clinical Development Alex LeBeaut as independent director.
What did you do before?
Before Calypso Biotech, I worked with Merck Serono as translational immunologist until the closure of the Geneva site in 2012. I previously worked in a Biotech in Canada until Pfizer bought it, and before in Schering-Plough in France until the facility was closed in 2004. Actually, I experienced many site closures! Calypso allowed me to start my own company.
Why this idea?
The idea to run this gastroenterology projects as an independent company was born because the Geneva site of Merck closed and at the same time there was a reorganization of the R & D that deprioritized the projects we were working on; these were perfect conditions for a spin off. It is a win-win situation because Calypso Biotech can develop programs that Merck Serono would have had a difficult time to partner : they were too early. On the other hand, being a spin-off from a big Pharma helps Calypso Biotech to attract investors’ and other Pharma partners.
What are the next steps?
We need to raise more money and are seeking a series A financing in 2015 for the refractory celiac disease program, in order to reach by 2018 the demonstration of clinical signs of efficacy in patients.
For the second program, we are not sure yet, we may sell it. We have also secured non-dilutive funds last year on it.
This interview was a great discovery of Calypso Biotech. Merck Serono has more than one promising spin off. The big Pharma also supports Asceneuron and Prexton Therapeutics which raised a €9M series a few weeks ago.