Tariq Kassum, Celsius CEO

Cel­sius aims to cool down in­flam­ma­tion with new in­vestors and more phar­ma deals

Broad In­sti­tute spin­out Cel­sius Ther­a­peu­tics is turn­ing up the heat on the fi­nanc­ing front as it looks to ice the symp­toms of in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease.

The Cam­bridge, MA biotech has added $83 mil­lion in new fi­nanc­ing — a mix­ture of a Se­ries A ex­ten­sion and Se­ries B funds — to chase its vi­sion of pre­ci­sion ther­a­pies across au­toim­mune dis­eases and can­cer. The Third Rock- and GV-backed start­up, found­ed in 2018, brought in new in­vestors like Am­gen Ven­tures, Am­pli­tude Ven­tures and Fast Track Ini­tia­tive.

Keep an eye on Fast Track, the Tokyo VC firm that’s “very plugged in­to Japan­ese phar­ma com­pa­nies and the Japan­ese busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment,” Cel­sius CEO Tariq Kas­sum told End­points News. Pri­or to his roles at Cel­sius and Ob­sid­i­an Ther­a­peu­tics, Kas­sum held mul­ti­ple di­rec­tor and se­nior di­rec­tor po­si­tions at Take­da and its Mil­len­ni­um unit from 2009 to 2016.

“Cer­tain­ly from my ex­pe­ri­ence at Take­da, I have a lot of re­spect for” phar­mas and aca­d­e­m­ic in­sti­tu­tions in Japan, Kas­sum said. Cel­sius is “talk­ing to all kinds of phar­ma com­pa­nies” about part­ner­ships, in­clud­ing ones in Japan, the CEO added.

Cel­sius will de­ploy the new funds on bring­ing its first treat­ment in­to the clin­ic in ear­ly 2023. The first stop? IBD. On­ly 20% to 30% of pa­tients ex­pe­ri­ence sus­tained re­mis­sion from ap­proved drugs in the IBD space, Kas­sum said.

In steps Cel­sius’ an­ti-TREM-1 an­ti­body, named CEL383. Af­ter an ini­tial healthy vol­un­teer study, Cel­sius wants to en­able “pa­tient se­lec­tion and pa­tient strat­i­fi­ca­tion,” as part of its pre­ci­sion ther­a­peu­tics mis­sion for the drug, Kas­sum said. He not­ed the pre­ci­sion med­i­cine the­sis of Cas­din Cap­i­tal, the Se­ries B lead in­vestor.

“The fu­ture of treat­ment of au­toim­mune dis­ease is be­ing able to iden­ti­fy sub­sets of pa­tients who can re­spond to your ther­a­py,” the CEO said.

Cel­sius chose TREM-1 based on the biotech’s sin­gle-cell analy­sis on hun­dreds of clin­i­cal sam­ples, which is the re­sult of col­lab­o­ra­tions with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ox­ford, Cleve­land Clin­ic, LMU Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tal Mu­nich and oth­er aca­d­e­m­ic in­sti­tu­tions. The myeloid tar­get plays a role in IBD by boost­ing in­flam­ma­tion “at the in­ter­sec­tion of the mi­cro­bio­me and the im­mune sys­tem,” the com­pa­ny said.

TREM-1 is the ba­sis of French start­up In­otrem, which is study­ing nan­gi­botide, an in­hibitor of the path­way, in mul­ti­ple mid-stage stud­ies in pa­tients with sep­tic shock and Covid-19. In­otrem is ex­pand­ing its an­ti-TREM-1 work with a mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body, yet to be test­ed in hu­mans. Al­so in the TREM-1 space is Pi­o­nyr, half-owned by Gilead, which is test­ing a mAb in pa­tients with ad­vanced sol­id tu­mors in a Phase Ia/Ib study.

On the part­ner­ship side, Cel­sius said Thurs­day that it’s made progress on its $700 mil­lion col­orec­tal can­cer col­lab­o­ra­tion with Servi­er. The French phar­ma has se­lect­ed the first tar­get can­di­date in the three-pro­gram deal, a step that pro­vides “great val­i­da­tion” for Cel­sius’ plat­form, Kas­sum said.

Cel­sius al­so has a part­ner­ship with J&J’s Janssen, but the biotech is more tight-lipped about this tie-up. Kas­sum said Cel­sius is per­form­ing analy­ses on cer­tain Janssen clin­i­cal tri­als, de­clin­ing to dis­close which ones. The com­pa­nies said in Ju­ly 2019 that Cel­sius would use sin­gle-cell ge­nomics and ma­chine learn­ing to “iden­ti­fy pre­dic­tive bio­mark­ers of re­sponse” in Janssen’s Phase IIa VE­GA study.

That tri­al showed a com­bo ther­a­py of Trem­fya and Sim­poni ARIA led to bet­ter clin­i­cal re­sponse at week 12 ver­sus ei­ther as a so­lo treat­ment in pa­tients with ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis, Janssen said last month.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

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As the company’s legal troubles mounted, Kyle found an unlikely way to reboot the project. In 2019, he took his work to an Oklahoma State University center that’s slated to receive more than two-thirds of the state’s $272 million settlement with Purdue over claims that the drugmaker’s behavior ignited the epidemic of opioid use and abuse.

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Bill Haney, Dragonfly CEO (Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW)

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Richard Francis, newly-appointed Teva CEO (Novartis via Facebook)

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FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Capitol Hill, Feb. 8, 2023 (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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