Drilling down into disease at a cellular level
CEO: Fabrice Chouraqui
Based: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Clinical focus: Cellarity is combining a discovery platform, machine learning and “network biology” to understand how cells behave when they’re healthy, and more importantly, how this changes when they’re diseased.
The scoop: Cellarity emerged in December 2019 to create drugs that treat disease by changing the way cells behave rather than taking aim at a specific, single molecular target.Modifying cell behavior isn’t a new idea—it is, after all, the goal of drugs developed to work against molecular targets. Problem is, this approach oversimplifies complex biology, said Fabrice Chouraqui, who holds a dual CEO-partner role at Cellarity and Flagship Pioneering.
What makes Cellarity fierce: Cellarity is looking beyond particular proteins, binding sites or cell processes such as autophagy, the cell’s garbage disposal. Instead, it uses single-cell technologies to see how changes in the molecular network of a cell changes its behavior and determine whether it is healthy or diseased.
The company's digital biology platform translates data from its physical laboratory into its digital lab. There, artificial intelligence technology creates Cellarity Maps, which don’t just lay out cell behaviors but indicate ways to change those behaviors to move from one network state to another.
“The combination of digital and biological models, which is built on a shared set of analytics, systems biology and high-resolution data, enables us to look for cellular behaviors more broadly, more efficiently understand them, and then more effectively design new chemical entities that target them,” said Chouraqui.
The company is mum about exact targets, not only because it wants to keep things close to its vest, but because it’s not the target but the molecule that is the focus.
“Our goal is not to find a target per se, but molecules that will produce a desired cell behavior change,” Chouraqui explained. “Our approach is target agnostic but not target blind. Our platform allows us to seek out the mode of action of our molecules and find one or a number of protein targets, depending on the disease.”
Chouraqui did say that Cellarity has drug discovery programs in metabolic diseases, immuno-oncology, hematological diseases and respiratory conditions.
The name comes from “arity,” the number of operands or inputs a function can take. “Since we are driving an entirely new approach of drug discovery which is based on many more inputs than a single target, we thought that “Cell-arity” would reflect well the transformational nature of our company,” Chouraqui said.
The biotech raised a pretty hefty $123 million at the start of the year but told Fierce Biotech that despite the clamor for early-stage biotechs to go public, that wasn’t an immediate goal.
The company has more than doubled in size in the past year and the new cash boost will help to “significantly grow our workforce in the coming months,” Chouraqui said
In October, it is also moving into its brand new facility in Bolton Yards in Somerville, just outside Boston, “which will be an important stepping stone in our development.”
Investors: BlackRock, The Baupost Group, Banque Pictet; Flagship Pioneering.