Cambrian secures $100M series C for Roivant-like approach to biotech creation with goal to slow down human aging

Cambrian Biopharma is on a mission to slow down the aging process and treat humans before they even develop cancer or Alzheimer's disease. Before the biotech can test its compounds in prevention-focused trials, though, it has to prove its chops in acute diseases and the company now has a $100 million boost for such work. 

The company is taking the "hub and spoke" approach to biotech building that Roivant has done by setting up, building and selling off its multiple Vants and like Atai Life Sciences has born out through its development of psychedelics-focused startups. Atai, which raised $225 million when it hit the Nasdaq in June, and Cambrian are co-founded by the same person: German billionaire Christian Angermayer.

Another name you might recognize? Former Allergan CEO Brent Saunders, who joined the Cambrian board in conjunction with the financing.

Here's how it works: Cambrian has linked arms with 12 partners to majority own 14 assets in the hopes that most will make it through the clinic. The biotech also holds minority stakes in "a few" others, said James Peyer, Ph.D., in an interview with Fierce Biotech. Further yet, the three-year-old Cambrian has also partaken in the investment round of an outside biotech in the case of Sensei Biotherapeutics' $28.5 million raise last October, rather than folding it in as a subsidiary. 

With the $100 million series C, Cambrian will bankroll three, or "as many as five," clinical trials within the next 18 months, Peyer said. The money will also support buying other assets to fold under the "Cambrian banner" as subsidiaries, the CEO said. Peyer co-founded Cambrian in 2019 after forming aging-related biotech VC shop Apollo Ventures.

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The company's drug compounds are scattered among 13 different "drivers of aging," or "different types of damage that accumulate in us as we age," Peyer said. The goal is to eventually test the drugs in clinical trials for prevention of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's.

The so-called longevity field, in which drugs aim to prevent instead of retroactively treat aging-related diseases, has been slowed by biotech and pharma leaders who say, "'OK, you extended the healthy lifespan of a mouse. So what. You can’t run a clinical trial for that, so therefore your invention is useless,'" Peyer said. 

So, Cambrian has to first prove its drugs can work safely and effectively in acute diseases, Peyer said. Two out of the first three trials will likely be in rare childhood diseases "because the mechanisms work a little bit like fast-aging syndromes," the CEO said. 

Asked if an IPO is the next step after a meaningful chunk of change raised Tuesday, Peyer said: "We are on a similar path to other companies of our style that are designed to eventually become publicly listed long-term research and development companies."

Atai went public in June and Roivant began trading earlier this month after its special purpose acquisition combination. While the parent company Roivant just went public, multiple of its Vants had already inked their mark on Wall Street or exited to other biopharmas.

The series C brings total funding to about $160 million, the company said. Anthos Capital and SALT Fund co-led the round with fuel from existing backers Apeiron Investment, Future Ventures and Moore Capital.