CEO Fabrice Chouraqui (Cellarity)

Flag­ship up­start Cel­lar­i­ty gath­ers $123M to fi­nance its ex­plo­ration of cell be­hav­ior, blaz­ing a new path to build­ing a broad pipeline

Right from the start, the dis­cov­ery plan at Flag­ship-spawned Cel­lar­i­ty was to take their cues from cell bi­ol­o­gy and fol­low them to new drugs. Rather than start with a tar­get and de­vel­op a drug to hit it, they’d use new tech­nol­o­gy to dig­i­tal­ly map cell be­hav­ior and then de­vel­op new drugs from what they learned.

“Over the past decades it has al­ways been about find­ing a tar­get, about re­duc­ing a dis­ease to a sin­gle mol­e­c­u­lar tar­get,” says Fab­rice Chouraqui, the No­var­tis vet who was re­cruit­ed to run the op­er­a­tion about 9 months ago. “And that ap­proach has pro­duced thou­sands of life-sav­ing med­i­cines. Yet, this ap­proach has lim­i­ta­tions. A mol­e­c­u­lar tar­get ap­proach is fine when you talk about a sim­ple dis­ease, but for very com­plex dis­eases like neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, like meta­bol­ic dis­ease, like can­cer, you hope to re­al­ly har­ness the com­plex­i­ty of hu­man bi­ol­o­gy.

“We de­vel­oped a drug dis­cov­ery plat­form to de­sign med­i­cines at the lev­el of the cell, which as we both know is the fun­da­men­tal of life,” says the CEO.

Net­work bi­ol­o­gy, high res­o­lu­tion da­ta and the right ma­chine learn­ing tools give them bet­ter in­sights in­to un­der­stand­ing “how a cell moves from a state of health to a state of dis­ease.”

For the staff at Cel­lar­i­ty, that ap­proach has helped cre­ate a va­ri­ety of pre­clin­i­cal dis­cov­ery projects. And now there’s $123 mil­lion more to fi­nance the next leg of the ex­plo­ration as they con­tin­ue the pipeline work, with maybe 1 or 2 more years to go be­fore they reach the clin­ic.

“We’ve been able to re­al­ly progress our pipeline,” says Chouraqui. “To­day we have 7 drug dis­cov­ery pro­grams in 4 dif­fer­ent dis­ease ar­eas and I think those 4 dis­ease ar­eas re­al­ly show­case the breadth and the depth of our plat­form; they range from meta­bol­ic dis­ease to im­muno-on­col­o­gy. I think we are get­ting clos­er to move in­to the clin­ic. The goal is not to rush in­to the clin­ic with one pro­gram, we have a plat­form which can be vir­tu­al­ly ap­plied to any dis­ease area.”

And now they have the mon­ey to work up a stream of new drug pro­grams. But that’s about as de­tailed as the pub­lic sto­ry gets at this stage of the jour­ney. Like most star­tups, it’s best to get to the late pre­clin­i­cal stage be­fore you start open­ing up about how the lead ther­a­pies work.

The in­sid­er sto­ry, though, was good enough to bring in an ex­pand­ed syn­di­cate for the rich round. Black­Rock, The Bau­post Group, Banque Pictet and 8 oth­er un­named in­vestors have jumped in to grab a front row seat in the lab. And Chouraqui plans to do some ac­tive re­cruit­ing to dou­ble the size of the staff this year.

The Big Phar­ma dis­card pile; Lay­offs all around while some biotechs bid farewell; New Roche CEO as­sem­bles top team; 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.

With earnings seasons in full swing, we’ve listened in on all the calls so you don’t have to. But news is popping up from all corners, so make sure you check out our other updates, too.

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Raymond Stevens, Structure Therapeutics CEO

Be­hind Fri­day's $161M IPO: A star sci­en­tist, GPCR drug dis­cov­ery and a plan to chal­lenge phar­ma in di­a­betes

What does it take to pull off a $161 million biotech IPO these days?

In Structure Therapeutics’ case, it means having a star scientist co-founder paired with the computational drug discovery company Schrödinger, $198 million in private funding from blue-chip investors, almost six years of research work on G protein-coupled receptors and a slate of oral, small-molecule drugs, with an eye on the huge and growing diabetes and weight-loss market.

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/Politico via AP Images)

In­fla­tion re­bates in­com­ing: Wyden calls on CMS to move quick­ly as No­var­tis CEO pledges re­ver­sal

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week sent a letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeking an update on how and when new inflation-linked rebates will take effect for drugs that see major price spikes.

The newly signed Inflation Reduction Act requires manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicare when they increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.

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Trodelvy notch­es a win in most com­mon form of breast can­cer

Following a promise last year to go “big and fast in breast cancer,” Gilead has secured a win for Trodelvy in the most common form.

The drug was approved to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer patients who’ve already received endocrine-based therapy and at least two other systemic therapies for metastatic cancer, Gilead announced on Friday.

Trodelvy won its first indication in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer back in 2020, and has since added urothelial cancer to the list. HR-positive HER2-negative breast cancer accounts for roughly 70% of new breast cancer cases worldwide per year, according to senior VP of oncology clinical development Bill Grossman, and many patients develop resistance to endocrine-based therapies or worsen on chemotherapy.

Af­ter 13 years, Ramy Mah­moud steps in­to CEO seat at Opti­nose; Ru­pert Vessey set to ex­it Bris­tol My­ers in Ju­ly

After 13 years as president and COO at Optinose, Ramy Mahmoud has stepped into a new role as its CEO. He is taking the place of Peter Miller, who stepped down earlier this week, though Miller is still staying with the company as a consultant.

In 2010, the two business partners joined Optinose to take it in a new direction, transforming it from a delivery platform to product company. They previously worked together at Johnson & Johnson, when Miller was president at Janssen and Mahmoud headed medical affairs. Miller said after he learned about Optinose, “I did what I always do, which is find people smarter than me to talk with about the idea. And the first person I called was Ramy … and I said, ‘Hey, Ramy, what do you think of this technology?’”

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Ma­gen­ta halts stem cell work and may sell it­self fol­low­ing pa­tient death, clin­i­cal hold

Magenta Therapeutics said it is halting work on its stem cell transplant drug pipeline and may sell itself, a week after the company reported the death of a patient in an early stage trial of its antibody-drug conjugate.

The Cambridge, MA-based company said it will conduct a “review of strategic alternatives,” and that could include an “acquisition, merger, business combination, or other transaction.”

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Te­va drops out of in­dus­try trade group PhRMA

Following in AbbVie’s footsteps, Teva confirmed on Friday that it’s dropping out of the industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Teva didn’t give a reason for its decision to leave, saying only in a statement to Endpoints News that it annually reviews “effectiveness and value of engagements, consultants and memberships to ensure our investments are properly seated.”

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Sanofi CFO Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon (L) and CEO Paul Hudson (Romuald Meigneux/Sipa via AP Images)

Sanofi sees downtick in flu sales as it preps for launch of RSV an­ti­body

Sanofi expects its RSV antibody jointly developed with AstraZeneca will be available next season, executive VP of vaccines Thomas Triomphe announced on the company’s quarterly call.

Beyfortus, also known as nirsevimab, was approved in the EU back in November and is currently under FDA review with an expected decision coming in the third quarter of this year. The news comes as the FDA plans to hold advisory committee meetings over the next couple months to review RSV vaccines from Pfizer and GSK.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Photographer: Shoko Takayasu/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Take­da fo­cus­es on ‘di­verse’ pipeline prospects on heels of two ac­qui­si­tions

After a whopping $4 billion asset buy from Nimbus Therapeutics, along with a $400 million deal with Hutchmed for a colorectal cancer drug, Takeda executives touted pipeline optimism on its latest earnings call this week.

That’s because the TYK2 inhibitor for psoriasis Takeda is getting from Nimbus, along with the Hutchmed fruquintinib commercialization outside of China, are just two of what it reports are 10 late-stage development programs of promising candidates.