A developer of precision therapeutics for autoimmune diseases and cancer based on single-cell genomics has launched with $65 million in Series A financing.
Celsius Therapeutics said it aims to discover first-in-class precision therapies by combining computational algorithms with insights obtained through single-cell sequencing –namely identifying and understanding individual cells and their interactions that cause disease.
Those insights, Celsius reasons, could also allow it to identify combinations of treatments, and build on the results seen in immuno-oncology.
Celsius also aims to commercialize the research of two co-founders who hold positions at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. One is Aviv Regev, Ph.D., a core institute member, chair of the faculty, and director of the Klarman Cell Observatory at the Broad. The other is an associate member of the institute, Vijay Kuchroo, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Celsius said it has licensed key technologies from the Broad Institute based on the work of Drs. Regev and Kuchroo, including non-exclusive licenses to single-cell technologies, and an exclusive license to early stage therapeutic programs.
Dr. Kuchroo is also Samuel L. Wasserstrom professor of neurology, Harvard Medical School; senior scientist, neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital; director, Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Regev is also a professor of biology at MIT, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Dr. Regev has found that the combined dysfunction of several specific cell types, and the interactions between them, are drivers of many diseases. That activity is not identifiable through traditional genomic sequencing but can be detected, Celsius says, by combining machine learning algorithms and large quantities of data
Celsius says its method can distinguish specific cells that play key roles in disease, and identify genes that are causing those cells to malfunction, with the goal of identifying targets for new treatments.
“We can now see the dysfunction of key cells and their interactions within their neighborhood. Diseases that we have struggled to understand now can become crystal clear. With that clarity, we hope to create novel precision medicines,” said Celsius Chairman Alexis Borisy, a partner at Third Rock Ventures.
Third Rock led the financing, with participation from GV (formerly Google Ventures), Heritage Provider Network, Casdin Capital, Alexandria Venture Investments and other investors.
“With the new level of clarity provided by single-cell sequencing, our team will be able to address many of the challenges of the current treatments and introduce a new class of medicines that will lead to better outcomes and potential cures,” added Celsius Co-Founder and President Christoph Lengauer, Ph.D., a venture partner at Third Rock, and an adjunct associate professor at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Joining Drs. Lengauer, Regev, and Kuchroo among Celsius’ co-founders are:
- Jeffrey Bluestone, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); A.W. and Mary Margaret Clausen Distinguished Professor, UCSF.
- Ramnik Xavier, M.D., chief of gastroenterology, Massachusetts General Hospital; institute member, Broad Institute; Kurt Isselbacher professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School.