CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Celsius Therapeutics kicked off its first major collaboration of the year this week, having begun an agreement with Janssen Biotech Inc. The companies will work together on biomarker discovery, with Celsius leveraging its proprietary single-cell genomics and machine-learning platform for the identification of biomarkers that could predict patient response in Janssen's VEGA study. The Phase 2a clinical trial is assessing the efficacy and safety of combination therapy with guselkumab and golimumab in ulcerative colitis patients.
Per the terms of the agreement, Janssen Biotech will make payments to Celsius of undisclosed amounts, with the potential for additional milestone payments based on the use of biomarkers identified through this deal. Specific financial details were not disclosed. Celsius retains the right to integrate clinical and sample-level data generated from the VEGA study into its database, and can further examine the data for its own target and drug discovery efforts.
“Celsius has built an industrialized platform at the scale necessary to consistently process intact patient samples and to rapidly integrate and interrogate the large datasets being generated across this global multicenter study,” Dr. Christoph Lengauer, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Celsius, said in a press release. “The longitudinal patient datasets and sample-level information generated through this large study will enable Celsius and Janssen to extract deep molecular and cellular insights, which we hope will ultimately lead to better treatments for patients.”
Celsius' approach focuses on uniting single-cell genomic sequencing and computational algorithms for discovering precision therapies for autoimmune diseases and cancer. Specifically, as the company explains, Celsius “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.”
“We are very pleased to be collaborating with Janssen, a company with a long-standing commitment to improving the lives of patients with inflammatory bowel disease,” commented Dr. Tariq Kassum, CEO of Celsius. “As our first industry partnership, it serves as a model for how we can apply our integrated platform to identify the specific patients who will benefit from existing and investigational therapies, while simultaneously gathering data that will fuel Celsius’ novel target and drug discovery engine.”
In other partnering news on Janssen's end, Janssen Research & Development LLC reported a collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), aimed at “inspiring data-driven approaches to improve health and develop the next generation of leaders in healthcare data sciences.” Janssen, UC Berkeley and UCSF will establish a data science health innovation fellowship program, headed up by the two universities, that will work with platform teams in Janssen. Cohorts of up to five data scientists from industry or academia will be recruited to conduct research in areas of unmet need, and the fellows will have access to a variety of expertise from the universities as they conduct research projects over the course of two years with mentorship from all three partner organizations.
“We’re at an inflection point where the health, technology and consumer industries are converging in new and potentially life-saving ways,” Dr. Mathai Mammen, global head, Janssen Research & Development, said in a statement regarding the collaboration. “This fellowship program aims to bring together data scientists, large biomedical datasets and expertise from both industry and academia to find innovative new ways of improving healthcare and bringing meaningful solutions to people in need.”