Celsius Therapeutics, launched on 5/15/18 with a $65 million Series A financing led by Third Rock Ventures with participation from GV (formerly Google Ventures), Heritage Provider Network, Casdin Capital, Alexandria Venture Investments and other key investors. Celsius is charting a new course of target and drug discovery by understanding the specific cells, among many others, that are key players in disease and by identifying the genes that are triggering their malfunction.
Celsius’ fundamentally new approach aims to combine the power of single-cell genomic sequencing with computational algorithms to discover first-in-class precision therapies that have a transformative impact on the lives of patients with autoimmune diseases and cancer. To do this, the company applies a systematic approach, starting with single-cell sequencing on defined patient samples to identify and understand the individual cells and their interactions that cause disease.
By analyzing single cells, Celsius’ approach has the potential to understand the causes of disease at an entirely new level of resolution that overcomes limitations of traditional genomic sequencing approaches. Celsius believes this approach could be the key to bring precision medicines to autoimmune diseases for the first time. These cellular insights could also allow Celsius to identify the right combination of treatments for the right patients and build on the promising results seen in the field of immuno-oncology.
Celsius was co-founded by Aviv Regev, Ph.D., core institute member, chair of the faculty and director of the Klarman Cell Observatory at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Professor of Biology at MIT and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Her research revealed that many diseases are driven by the combined dysfunction of several specific cell types, and the interactions between them. Traditional genomic sequencing cannot identify these individual contributions, as only the average can be seen and key critical causes can be missed. For the first time, with the approaches discovered by Aviv and Celsius’ other founders, the company will combine massive datasets of unprecedented size and complexity with sophisticated machine learning algorithms. Celsius will be able to distinguish the specific cells, among many others, that play a key role in disease and identify the genes that are triggering their malfunction. This approach will allow the company to more efficiently identify specific targets for treating diseases in specific patients and ultimately develop medicines for those targets.
“When first meeting with Aviv and her colleagues and learning about the significance of this new technology, we knew this had to become a company. We formed Celsius with the goal of bringing a novel precision medicine approach to underserved patients with autoimmune diseases and certain cancers,” said Christoph Lengauer, Ph.D., co-founder and president of Celsius and venture partner at Third Rock Ventures. “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.”
Lengauer has a distinguished history in drug discovery having worked at Sanofi, where he was vice president and global head of oncology drug discovery and preclinical development. Before joining Sanofi, he was executive director and senior unit head of oncology discovery at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR).