Kayothera, cancer therapeutics start-up spun out of Princeton, wins BIO 2021 Start-up Stadium Competition

Written by
Jonathan Garaffa
Aug. 6, 2021

On July 27, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) named cancer therapeutics and Princeton spin-out company Kayothera Inc. winner of its 2021 Start-up Stadium competition. The company was selected as the winner from 16 finalist companies who were judged on the strength of their commercially viable cutting-edge technologies and therapeutic solutions. Kayothera develops novel small molecule immunotherapies to treat advanced-stage cancers that are fairly resistant to current chemotherapy, including breast, lung, brain, pancreatic, colon, and kidney cancers.

As winner of the competition, Kayothera will receive a one-year membership at BIO and a “fast-track” accelerator application and nomination to the final selection phase for an Illumina Accelerator sequencing grant of up to $10,000.

Kayothera was founded in 2019 and is based in Princeton, New Jersey. The Kayothera team’s Princeton connections include President and CEO Mark Esposito, who completed his doctorate in oncology and postdoctoral research at Princeton; Scientific Advisory Board Chair Yibin Kang, Princeton’s Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology; and Scientific Strategy Board Member Kenric Hoegler, who completed his doctorate in molecular biology at Princeton.

Esposito and Kang cofounded Kayothera in order to continue the development of therapies based originally in Kang’s lab. They received early seed funding in 2019 under a Princeton agreement with the New Jersey Health Foundation, with assistance from the Office of Corporate Engagement and Foundation Relations and the Office of Technology Licensing. In 2021, Kang and Esposito published their discovery of a new organelle involved in cancer metastasis. Kang is also a founding member of the recently established Princeton branch of Ludwig Cancer Research, which is the first Ludwig location to focus on cancer metabolism.

"The start-up stadium was a fantastic opportunity to craft Kayothera's narrative while reaching a broad audience of stakeholders in the cancer immunotherapy field," noted Esposito. "We made several high-value investor introductions through the Start-up stadium that have led to fruitful discussions since the event."

BIO is the world's largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. The competition was held during BIO’s annual International Convention, the largest biotechnology industry gathering in the world.

Read the original announcement of Kayothera’s win at the BIO website.