Merck Serono creates Calypso Biotech

New company will focus on gastrointestinal immunological disorders

Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, has created Calypso Biotech, the sixth spin-off company resulting from its Entrepreneur Partnership Program (EPP).

Merck Serono will invest €2.5m as seed funding in the new company, which will target selected niche indications with high unmet medical needs in the area of inflammatory bowel diseases. Merck Serono Ventures will manage the investment and will be represented on the company’s board of directors.

‘We are pleased that Calypso Biotech will continue promising programs in inflammatory bowel diseases, while Merck Serono focuses its R&D efforts in other therapeutic areas,’ said Dr Bernhard Kirschbaum, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Research and Early Development at Merck Serono. ‘Calypso Biotech has the portfolio, the expertise and the scientific network to build a unique translational medicine approach and to become a partner of choice in this therapeutic area.’

Calypso Biotech will start with three Merck Serono employees. It is founded by Yolande Chvatchko and Alain Vicari, two experienced immunologists.

Chvatchko said: ‘Despite the efficacy of current treatments such as anti-TNF therapies, many patients suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases are experiencing dreadful and sometimes life-threatening complications. In addition, recent changes in our dietary habits have modified the relationships between our immune system and gut microbiota to an extent that we are just beginning to understand, leading to severe pathologies with no treatment options.’

Vicari added: ‘Our portfolio of promising and differentiated therapeutic antibody candidates against validated mechanisms underlying disease progression in several gastrointestinal diseases may be able to address these pathologies which are insufficiently treated by current therapies.’

Merck Serono launched its EPP programme in April 2012 following the announcement that Merck Serono’s headquarters in Geneva would close. To date, the EPP has enabled 41 former members of staff to find new employment, through the creation of spin-offs and service companies.

The six new companies are: Prexton Therapeutics (Parkinson’s disease), Quartz Bio (bioinformatics), Asceneuron (Alzheimer’s disease), TQM Insight (Information Technology governance), Ondaco (Information Technology Services), and now Calypso Biotech (gastrointestinal immunological disorders).