Celsius turns up the heat with lead drug selection, $83M financing

The temperature is rising at Celsius Therapeutics as the precision-medicine-focused biotech picks a lead candidate and reels in $83 million in funding.

Celsius has now picked its first clinical candidate, an antibody treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) called CEL383. To top that off, the biotech has picked up $83 million in new funding from an expansion of its 2018 series A round combined with a new series B financing. Amgen Ventures was one of the new investors to chip in this time, along with Amplitude Ventures, Catalio Capital and several others. The company initially raised $63 million in the series A. 

IBD encompasses several different gastrointestinal diseases, the most common being Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and affects 3.1 million American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CEL383 was identified using Single Cell Observations for Precision Effect, or SCOPE, Celsius’ human tissue-based precision medicine platform.

The extra $83 million comes as Celsius gears up for a busy year ahead. The company is planning to apply for an investigational new drug approval from the FDA, with eyes on a phase 1 trial for CEL383 at the beginning of next year. Celsius also plans to reveal more information about its two oncology drug discovery programs later this year. The programs are using SCOPE to analyze tumor samples, although Celsius hasn’t yet said which types of cancer the resulting therapies might treat.

According to President and CEO Tariq Kassum, M.D., Celsius’s platform has already done single-cell RNA sequencing for over a thousand tissue samples and “our dataset continues to grow rapidly.”

Expanding its data set was one of the goals of Celsius’ 2019 deal with Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical unit Janssen. The Big Pharma handed off data from phase 2a trials of the psoriasis med Tremfya and ulcerative colitis treatment Simponi for Celsius to analyze with its platform for biomarkers that could predict how patients responded to the two drugs. This let Celsius expand its data set in addition to receiving several undisclosed payments.

Celsius also has an ongoing collaboration with Servier on colorectal cancer that’s now starting to pay off. The terms of their 2020 deal had Celsius use SCOPE to analyze patient samples and identify potential treatment drugs, which they’d hand off to Servier to research, develop and commercialize in exchange for over $700 million in potential milestone payments on top of tiered royalties. A milestone payment was recently triggered after Celsius identified a target for Servier.