Drug Development, Startups, Venture

Faheem Hasnain and his ex-Receptos team launch a new biotech with $100M and a twist on the old biotech model

Faheem Hasnain

And the money just keeps flowing.

Two former Receptos executives, Faheem Hasnain and Sheila Gujrathi, stepped out late Thursday with news that they’ve launched a new company equipped with $100 million in seed capital.

These two executives are best know for their roles at Receptos, a San Diego company acquired by Celgene for $7.2 billion in 2015. Hasnain served as CEO, and Gujrathi as CMO. Since that acquisition, many in San Diego were left wondering what Hasnain and the executive team would go on to do. And now they have their answer.

The new venture is called Gossamer Bio, and it’s coming out the gate with $100 million in financing from a seed round provided by Omega Funds and a Series A preferred stock round co-led by ARCH Venture Partners and Omega Funds.

You may not be familiar with Omega Funds, and that’s because the investment group has laid low for the past 14 years, a company spokesman said. Equipped with a $300 million fund (their fifth since launch), Omega Funds holds companies like Editas and Juno in its portfolio.

Sheila Gujrathi

Gossamer Bio plans to use the new funds to quickly ramp up the company, taking “a number of early and late-stage drug candidates” through clinical trials. They believe the lead asset is a “pipeline within a product,” with multiple indications to go after.

Hasnain came away from the Receptos sale with enough cash to retire early, but he tells Endpoints News that he was back in the game within a couple of weeks of the sale.

“The day that we announced the sale of Receptos I was in my board room with my management team,” he says. “And you weren’t seeing a lot of high fives. It was a great deal, but it was a little glum.

“I basically broke that silence by saying, ‘You guys want to do this again?’”

“It was a resounding ‘yes!’. Money’s great, but I don’t think that’s the primary driver for those people.”

Still, he adds, it’s going to be different this time. Instead of being put in a position where he might have to sell the company on the basis of the lead asset alone, Gossamer will create an independent subsidiary for each program, and they can wheel and deal on each accordingly.

“When you’re acquired, the team either goes with it or gets blown up,” says the newly re-coined CEO. And that won’t happen again.

The biotech has completed two deals and is close to wrapping up a full slate of two to three additional programs. The lead program is still being kept under wraps, but Hasnain landed it from a biotech company and expects to do more in-licensing deals with a range of big and little outfits. The lead is slated to head into a Phase II/III designed trial.

John Carroll contributed to this report.


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