Michigan biotech start-up Lycera moving headquarters to Massachusetts

The University of Michigan spin-off, which also hired a new chief executive, plans to maintain its research and development operations in the Ann Arbor area.

PLYMOUTH, Michigan — Promising biotech start-up Lycera is moving its headquarters to Cambridge, Mass., in a move that coincides with adding a new chief executive.

The University of Michigan spin-off, which raised a $36 million Series A round of funding last year, plans to maintain its research and development operations in Plymouth, according to a statement from the company. About 12 of the firm’s 15 employees work in Michigan.

William Sibold, the former senior vice president of U.S. commercial business at Switzerland-based drugmaker Biogen Idec, becomes Lycera’s new chief executive. Based in Cambridge, Sibold led Biogen’s $2.5 billion U.S. business which consisted of the oncology, rheumatology and neurology therapeutic areas, according to the statement.

Founded in 2006, Lycera develops pills to treat autoimmune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The young company doesn’t yet have any drugs in clinical trials and wouldn’t offer a time line for when it would, Xconomy reported.

Last year, the company added a program to focus on Th17 cells, a subset of immune cells that can cause rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, but are also a new pathway that can be used to treat those diseases. An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. About 80 diseases fall into the category, making it a potentially lucrative market.

“With two of the most promising oral small molecule approaches for treating autoimmune disease, Lycera is on the leading edge of the immunology therapeutics space and has the potential to transform how autoimmune diseases are treated,” Sibold said in the statement.

The company has been a bit of a start-up darling in Michigan’s life science community, winning a “Deal of the Year” award from for the $36 million fund-raise. In 2006, Lycera intimated it would leave the state if it didn’t get funding. It then received subsidies the following year: a five-year state tax credit for $499,000 to stay in the Ann Arbor area and create 34 jobs; a five-year, $440,00 subsidized lease at the Ann Arbor SPARK incubator, as well as $150,000 worth of used lab equipment.