Fabrice Chouraqui, Cellarity CEO

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.

Vac­cine doc­u­ments, young lead­ers and mar­ket tur­moil: End­points' 10 biggest sto­ries of 2022

It’s been a volatile year in the world of biopharma. Market declines reset M&A valuations, and may be beginning to tempt bigger buyers back into dealmaking. Russia’s war in Ukraine disrupted drug sales and clinical trials. A new generation of young biotech leaders emerged in the Endpoints 20(+1) Under 40. And as capital runs dry in a tough environment for raising new funds, companies big and small are taking a look at their headcounts and operations for ways to make it through lean times.

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Tom Riga, Spectrum Pharmaceuticals CEO

Spec­trum im­plodes af­ter a harsh pub­lic slap­down and now a CRL from Richard Paz­dur

The FDA has gone out of its way several times to flatten any expectations for Spectrum’s lung cancer drug poziotinib, including slamming the regulatory door in the biotech’s face four years ago when the their executive crew came calling for a breakthrough drug designation and encouragement from the oncology wing of the FDA.

That stinging early rebuke pointed straight down the path to a corrosive in-house agency review of Spectrum’s attempt to land an accelerated approval for the oral EGFR TKI and a public whipping that included a classic takedown by none other than Richard Pazdur, who slammed the company for “poor drug development” that led to confusion over the dose needed for a slice of NSCLC patients harboring HER2 exon 20 insertion mutations.

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Big Phar­ma's Twit­ter ex­o­dus; Mer­ck wa­gers $1.35B on buy­out; $3.5M gene ther­a­py; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

As you start planning for #JPM23, we hope you will consider joining Endpoints News for our live and virtual events. For those who are celebrating Thanksgiving, we hope you are enjoying the long weekend with loved ones. And if you’re not — we’ll see you next week!

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (John Thys/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Pfiz­er CEO un­der fire from UK watch­dog over vac­cine com­ments — re­port

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told the BBC last December that he had “no doubt in my mind that the benefits, completely, are in favor” of vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds for Covid-19. Almost a year later, those comments have reportedly landed him in trouble with a UK pharma watchdog.

Children’s advocacy group UsForThem filed a complaint with the UK’s Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) last year accusing Bourla of making “disgracefully misleading” statements during the BBC interview, including one that “Covid in schools is thriving.” At the time, UK regulators had not yet cleared the vaccine for the 5 to 11 age group, though the vaccine did have a positive opinion from the EMA’s human medicines committee.

Sanofi's new headquarters, La Maison Sanofi, in Paris (Credit: Luc Boegly)

Sanofi wel­comes 500 staffers to new Paris HQ af­ter €30M ren­o­va­tion

When Paul Hudson took the helm at Sanofi back in 2019, he promised to reinvent the pharma giant — including its Paris headquarters. This week, the company set up shop in new “state-of-the-art” digs.

La Maison Sanofi, as the new HQ is called, is officially open for business, Hudson announced on Monday. The 9,000-square-meter (just under 97,000-square-foot) space accommodates 500 employees across the company’s government and global support functions teams, including finance, HR, legal and corporate affairs — and it was built with environmental sustainability and hybrid work in mind.

Sta­da to place $50M+ in­vest­ment in a new fa­cil­i­ty in Ro­ma­nia

While Romania may conjure up images of vast mountain ranges and tales of medieval kings, one generic manufacturer has broken ground on a new facility there.

German pharma company Stada said Monday that it has placed a €50 million ($51.9 million) investment into a 100,000 square-meter (1.08 million square-foot) site in Turda, Romania, a city in the Southeast of the country. According to a Stada spokesperson in an email to Endpoints News, the company has developed only 281,500 square feet of the site so far.

Rachael Rollins (Charles Krupa/AP Images)

US seeks jail time for co-CEO of New Eng­land com­pound­ing cen­ter af­ter dead­ly 2012 fun­gal out­break

The US attorney for the district of Massachusetts late last week called on the state’s district court to sentence the former co-owner of the now-defunct New England Compounding Center to 18 months of jail time for his role in the center’s quality deviations that led to more than 100 people dead from a fungal meningitis outbreak.

Gregory Conigliaro was convicted of conspiring with more than a dozen others at NECC to deceive the FDA and misrepresent the fact that the center was only dispensing drugs pursuant to patient-specific prescriptions.

FDA tells Catal­ent to fix is­sues at two man­u­fac­tur­ing sites on its own

The CDMO Catalent will have to fix issues at two manufacturing plants in the US and Europe that were subject to inspections by the FDA this summer, giving the company room to correct the issues without facing further regulatory action.

The FDA gave Catalent a “voluntary action indicated” response to two inspections at the contract manufacturer’s site in Bloomington, IN, and Brussels, Belgium. Fixing the issues on its own is a preferable outcome to facing an “official action indicated” response, meaning that an official warning would be sent out or a sit-down with the FDA would be required.

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Merck targets vaccine-hesitant parents in its latest 'Why Vaccines' campaign. (Image: Shutterstock)

Mer­ck­'s lat­est 'Why Vac­ci­nes' cam­paign seeks to bet­ter in­form vac­cine-hes­i­tant moms

From Hollywood couple endorsements to targeted equity efforts, Merck has been pushing the value of vaccinations, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic disruption. Now the pharma is turning to a new target — vaccine-hesitant parents, and moms in particular.

Merck’s “Why Vaccines” latest social media and digital campaign spotlights real-life new moms who have questions about vaccinating their children.

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