Horizon alums unveil Acelyrin, a biotech to accelerate the development of promising drugs

Acelyrin CEO Shao-Lee Lin, M.D., Ph.D.

Shao-Lee Lin, M.D., Ph.D., and Bob Carey didn’t leave Horizon Therapeutics with explicit plans to team up later on. But, as they got talking about what their next chapters could be, they realized they had complementary skills and the experience and drive to bridge a gap in drug development. Acelyrin was born.

The company launches with series A financing from Westlake Village BioPartners, the VC firm founded by Sean Harper, M.D., and Beth Seidenberg, M.D., which unveiled two new funds totaling $500 million Tuesday. Its mission? To identify, acquire and accelerate the development of promising drug candidates from partners in academia, biotech and Big Pharma. Unlike biotech builders, such as BridgeBio Pharma and Cydan, which pick up programs and spin them out into companies, Acelyrin’s work will be under one umbrella.

“At the end of the day, it’s about building a long-term sustainable biopharma company, and, with that, we anticipate building a pipeline that has the potential to be truly meaningful to patients with serious diseases,” said Lin, CEO of Acelyrin, who, as chief scientific officer at Horizon, oversaw the development of its thyroid eye disease medicine Tepezza.

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The company is looking to strike “win-win” deals around its partners' needs. A small biotech or academic team may need some funding and Lin and Carey’s drug development know-how to advance their projects, while a Big Pharma company may need Acelyrin to pick up the reins on a program that shows promise but has been is not being progressed for budget or strategy reasons.

Acelyrin COO Bob Carey (Acelyrin)

First up, the company is looking for immunology assets and clinical-stage programs to license or acquire, said Carey, Aceyrin’s president and chief operating officer, who previously was chief business officer at Horizon. The company is keeping other areas of interest under wraps, but Carey emphasized what it’s not interested in.

“We’re not interested in 'me-too' meds; we’re not interested in reformulation. We are looking for mechanisms that are going to have a dramatic effect on the quality of patient outcomes and finding programs that take advantage of those mechanisms,” he said.

Acelyrin isn’t disclosing how much funding it’s raised, either, just that the capital is enough to propel its search and evaluation efforts as well as build its programs once it’s picked some to acquire.

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Like its investor, Westlake Village BioPartners, Acelyrin is based in the Los Angeles area and plans to help develop the area into a biotech hub, the company said in a statement. It also has a site in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“What sets ACELYRIN’s leaders apart is their ability to bring together experienced, world-class biopharma executives and venture capitalists with broad, complementary skillsets and networks,” said Harper, Westlake’s co-founding managing director and Acelyrin board member, in the statement.