A year and a half after Cellarity raised $123M, the Flagship biotech is back — and it's ready to pick out candidates
Cellarity doesn’t have any lead candidates yet. It doesn’t even have a public pipeline.
But it’s still attracting new investors. In a third round of financing announced this morning, Cellarity raised $121 million — just $2 million short of its last round — and brought on four new investors, including Kyowa Kirin and Hanwha Impact Partners.
Flagship, where the startup was first conceived, also participated in the latest round. Most of its other former investors returned as well, Cellarity CEO Fabrice Chouraqui told Endpoints News, though he would not disclose which ones.
Since its last round in February of last year, Cellarity has made progress on a number of fronts, said Chouraqui, a Novartis vet. Most significantly, the biotech is poised to select its first drug candidate in the near future.
They’ve identified compounds for their metabolism and hematology programs — though Chouraqui wouldn’t say what indications exactly — and tested them in cells and non-human primates. And with additional cash in hand, “the goal will be to nominate our first drug candidates and then progress our pipeline towards the clinic,” he said.
But Chouraqui couldn’t say exactly when that would happen. “We are in white space,” Chouraqui said, “It’s uncharted territory — there is no playbook — and that’s why I couldn’t answer some of your questions about timing.”
Cellarity is built around a non-traditional drug development approach. Rather than looking for targets, and then drugs that modify said targets, its technology examines the entire cell system. The goal? To go from a diseased cell state to a healthy one.
Cellarity’s platform begins by mapping out the changes that happen when cells go from healthy to diseased. Then, it predicts what compounds can change a cell back from diseased to healthy.
The approach generates vast amounts of data that is processed through machine learning. In order to look at changes to the whole cell state, Cellarity’s platform mainly uses transcriptomics — data on all the RNA transcripts produced in a cell.
But with its new funding, that could change too. Chouraqui said Cellarity is looking to add other ‘omics’ data, such as proteomics (all the proteins expressed in a cell), to its platform. But he said what kind of data are added would differ from case to case.
Cellarity is one of a handful of biotechs running with a ‘target-agnostic’ approach. Just a few days ago, scientists from Harvard’s Wyss Institute launched their own biotech that also uses RNA data to analyze cell states, but their platform is focused on CNS diseases. The first indication they’re tackling is Rett syndrome.
Cellarity, which also has grown from 40 to 120 employees, may also look to further expand with its new funding. “Expansion will be more around developing new capabilities as our pipeline progresses as opposed to expanding what we have,” Chouraqui said.
Unsurprisingly, as it inches toward the clinic, one of the areas Cellarity will be looking to form a new team around is translational sciences.
With its latest round, Cellarity has raised $274 million to date, including $30 million from its first round and $123 million in its second one.