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July 8, 2020

Kleo COVID drug gets $5M boost from Gates Foundation

Photo | Contributed Kleo Pharmaceuticals is located at 150 Munson St. in New Haven.

Kleo Pharmaceuticals, a five-year-old New Haven biotech based in Science Park, said Wednesday it secured a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its drug to combat COVID-19.

Kleo said it will use the funding to advance a treatment that will leverage the company’s MATE (Monoclonal Antibody Therapy Enhancer) technology to fight SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Kleo said the financial boost will speed the company’s development timeline for the drug, which it expects to advance into human testing by early 2021.

“We are thrilled to receive grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate development of our COVID-19 HGM program and potentially help address this urgent global need,” CEO Dr. Doug Manion said in a statement. “From Kleo’s initial work in HIV and my 20-plus years of experience in developing successful antiviral medicines, the COVID-19 program represents an important component and natural evolution of the Kleo story.”

Kleo is developing a chemically engineered, synthetic version of the convalescent plasma treatment that has been widely used to treat patients with severe COVID-19. The drug would mimic hyperimmune globulin (HGM), an antibody that has been derived from the plasma of people who have recovered from the virus. 

Kleo said it has developed a series of binders that target the spike protein of SARS-Cov-2 to combine with commercially available intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) plasma to create the hyperimmune globulin imposter. 

Manion envisions the drug being used both as a preventative for healthcare workers and other front-line responders, and as a treatment for hospitalized patients to reduce their viral load before the tissue-damaging effects of the infection occur.  

He said the synthetic drug would be easier to scale and therefore could be more readily available to patients than treatments derived from plasma. 

The HGM treatment is not the only COVID-19 drug Kleo is exploring. It is also working with South Korea’s Green Cross LabCell and New Jersey-based Celularity to develop drugs leveraging its ARM (antibody recruiting molecule) technology. Those drugs would work by redirecting a patient’s own antibodies to eliminate the virus.

Spun out of Yale University in 2015, Kleo had mostly specialized in immuno-oncology before turning its attention to COVID-19 amid the public health crisis this spring. The company is preparing to launch its first human trial for its multiple myeloma drug KP1237 this year.

Contact Natalie Missakian at


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