Cellestia, based in Basel, is a biotech spin-off from EPFL, developing new compounds targeting the NOTCH pathway for the treatment of cancer. Its CEO, Michael Bauer, talked to Philip at our recent meetup in Basel and explained what sets Cellestia apart from other players in the field.
Cellestia was founded in 2014, based on the research of Freddy Radtke at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. In October 2015, the young company joined forces with a team of senior pharma executives, including current CEO Michael Bauer, to drive the development of Cellestia’s lead asset, an oral small molecule NOTCH inhibitor for the treatment of leukemias, lymphomas and solid tumors.
While the NOTCH-space is already quite crowded with big players like Abbvie and BMS developing their own inhibitors, Michael quickly convinced us of Cellestia’s competitive advantage, saying, “We have a unique compound, which, to our knowledge, is the first selective transcription factor inhibitor. So we can selective switch off gene transcription related to NOTCH pathway activation.”
The biotech has recently completed preclinical development and, commenting on their promising results, Michael told us, “We can also show that our compound can cover subtypes of the disease, where none of the receptor-ligand interaction related compounds work. So we have an exclusive market niche and medical need where our drug is the first and only that would work on this pathway.”
With excellent preclinical data at hand, the company is “in the final stage of compiling the dossier for clinical trial application. So we will file within the next 6 weeks or so and hope to have the first patient recruited during the 3rd quarter of this year.”
Apart from telling us more about Cellestia’s development programs and its plans to also establish a pipeline of next-generation compounds, Michael also commented on its current investors and the company’s plans for the next funding round. “We are probably going to launch a series A financing round in summer, to finance the complete clinical program.”
Finally, Michael also shared why he made the move from working in big companies like Novartis and Syngenta to co-founding a biotech startup.
“With the Celestia team, that originally founded the company in Lausanne, we had a good mix of personalities experience, great science, a good track record, and patents were good, too. So there was a really good package – we like them and they like us so we joined forces 1 1/2 years ago.”