Investor Watch: New Model for Pharma R&D with $250M Series A Round

Investor Watch: New Model for Pharma R&D with $250M Series A Round

Centessa Pharmaceuticals (“Centessa”) launched today as a novel asset-centric pharmaceutical company designed and built to advance a portfolio of highly validated programs. Centessa’s asset-centric R&D model applied at scale has assembled best-in-class or first-in-class assets, each of which is led by specialized teams committed to accelerate development and reshape the traditional drug development process. The company was founded by Medicxi and raised $250 million in an oversubscribed Series A financing led by General Atlantic and co-led by Vida Ventures and Janus Henderson Investors. Additional blue-chip investors participated in the financing, including Boxer Capital, Cormorant Asset Management, T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Venrock Healthcare Capital Partners, Wellington Management Company, BVF Partners L.P., EcoR1 Capital, Franklin Templeton, Logos Capital, Samsara BioCapital, LifeSci Venture Partners and an undisclosed U.S.-based, healthcare-focused fund.

A Merger of 10 Biotech Ventures

In conjunction with its launch, Centessa has completed the merger of 10 private biotech companies (“Centessa Subsidiaries”) that will each continue to develop its assets with oversight from the Centessa management team. Each Centessa Subsidiary team is asset-focused, in that it prosecutes a single program or biological pathway, with leadership provided by subject matter experts who are given a high degree of autonomy to advance each program. With a singular focus on advancing exceptional science, combined with proprietary capabilities, including structure-based drug discovery and design, the subsidiary teams enable Centessa to potentially develop and deliver impactful medicines to patients.

Key Goal: Reduce R&D Inefficiencies 

“The vision of Centessa is to build a pharmaceutical company with a unique operational framework that aims to reduce some of the key R&D inefficiencies that classical pharmaceutical companies face because of structural constraints,” said Francesco De Rubertis, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Partner at Medicxi and Chairman of the Centessa Pharmaceuticals Board of Directors. “Our operations will be driven by an asset-centric approach, whereby each Centessa Subsidiary is solely focused on the execution of its programs with oversight from the highly experienced Centessa management team. The ambition of applying asset centricity at scale is to be able to deliver life altering medicines to patients with improved efficiency by boosting R&D productivity.”

A Novel Approach

Centessa brings together 10 companies from Medicxi’s portfolio with 15 high conviction programs led by experienced teams. Each Centessa Subsidiary is led by industry leaders and subject matter experts with deep experience directly related to key biological pathways that underpin the programs being advanced. These entrepreneurs who have catalyzed the creation of subsidiary companies will continue to advance novel science within the Centessa enterprise.

The Centessa Subsidiaries are comprised of ApcinteX, Capella BioScience, Janpix, LockBody, Morphogen-IX, Orexia Therapeutics, Palladio Biosciences, PearlRiver Bio, Pega-One and Z Factor. The current Centessa Pharmaceuticals portfolio consists of four clinical stage programs, including two that are in late-stage clinical development, and more than 10 additional programs spanning diseases with high unmet need across oncology, hematology, immunology, inflammation, neuroscience and rare diseases.

“With this first-of-its-kind model, we are bringing together programs with robust genetic and biological validation under one new pharmaceutical company that provides centralized resources to enable and empower asset-focused teams to advance highly impactful programs for patients,” said Saurabh Saha, M.D., Ph.D., Centessa’s Chief Executive Officer. “This approach encourages an environment where scientific teams are incentivized to maintain an unwavering focus on advancing medicines to key go/no-go inflection points based on data-driven decisions.”

Centessa will have the flexibility to deploy capital by adhering to a “follow-the-data” philosophy and will support each Centessa Subsidiary with centralized capabilities that enable advancement of its respective programs. These include manufacturing, regulatory and operational support to enable and expedite scientific prosecution of programs by subsidiary teams. Each team is uniquely incentivized to expeditiously interrogate key scientific hypotheses.

Moncef Slaoui, Ph.D, Chief Scientific Officer, Advisor of Centessa, added, “In creating Centessa, we have strategically assembled our subsidiary portfolio to include programs with strong biological validation, mechanistic diversification, and teams with proprietary capabilities and insights. This high-quality portfolio aims to deliver enhanced diversification, reduced risk and asymmetric upside with a view to withstanding the inherent low probability of success associated with drug development.”

The Team

The Centessa Pharmaceuticals management team consists of biotech and pharmaceutical industry leaders who oversee decisions related to capital allocation, development plans and strategic transactions in partnership with the Centessa Subsidiaries.

Saurabh Saha, M.D., Ph.D., former Senior Vice President, R&D, and Global Head of Translational Medicine at Bristol Myers Squibb, has been appointed as the company’s Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors. In addition, Moncef Slaoui, Ph.D., former Chief Scientific Advisor of Operation Warp Speed, former Chairman of R&D at GlaxoSmithKline, and Partner at Medicxi, has been appointed as Chief Scientific Officer, Advisor.

The Centessa Board of Directors includes Francesco De Rubertis, Ph.D., Medicxi, who will serve as the company’s Chairman; Aaron Kantoff, Medicxi; Brett Zbar, M.D., General Atlantic; and Arjun Goyal, M.D., M.Phil., Vida Ventures.

“We believe Centessa represents a unique opportunity in our sector,” said Brett Zbar, M.D., Managing Director and Global Head of Life Sciences at General Atlantic. “The high-quality science and entrepreneurial drive within each of the Centessa Subsidiaries, combined with this deeply experienced leadership team, has the potential to bring important medicines to patients with speed and efficiency.”

“Centessa’s bold vision and unique operating model are supported by compelling clinical programs, strong data and a stellar team,” said Arjun Goyal, M.D., M.Phil., Co-Founder and Managing Director at Vida Ventures. “We believe Centessa’s approach can ultimately lead to impactful medicines that will benefit patients globally.”

ABOUT THE CENTESSA SUBSIDIARIES

ApcinteX
ApcinteX is developing SerpinPC, a specific inhibitor of the anticoagulant protease activated protein C (APC), for the treatment for hemophilia A and hemophilia B, with or without inhibitors.

Capella BioScience
Capella BioScience is developing CBS001, a neutralizing therapeutic monoclonal antibody to the inflammatory membrane form of LIGHT (known as TNFSF14), for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Capella BioScience is also developing CBS004, a therapeutic monoclonal antibody to blood dendritic cell antigen 2 (BDCA2), for the treatment of lupus erythematosus (systemic and cutaneous) and systemic sclerosis.

Janpix
Janpix is developing a novel class of selective dual-STAT3/5 small molecule monovalent degraders for the treatment of various hematological malignancies, including leukemias and lymphomas.

LockBody
LockBody is pioneering a platform technology to develop LockBody CD47 (LB1) and LockBody CD3 (LB2) for optimal targeting of solid tumors by the innate immune system.

Morphogen-IX
Morphogen-IX is developing MGX292, a protein-engineered variant of human bone morphogenetic protein-9 (BMP9), for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Orexia Therapeutics
Orexia Therapeutics is developing oral and intranasal orexin receptor agonists using structure-based drug design approaches. These agonists target the treatment of narcolepsy type 1, where they have the potential to directly address the underlying pathology of orexin neuron loss, as well as other neurological disorders characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness.

Palladio Biosciences
Palladio Biosciences is developing lixivaptan, an oral non-peptide, new chemical agent that works by selectively suppressing the activity of the hormone vasopressin at the V2 receptor, as a treatment for autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease with the goal of slowing the progression of kidney function decline and avoiding the liver safety issues associated with tolvaptan.

PearlRiver Bio
PearlRiver Bio is developing ​potent and selective oral exon20 insertion mutation inhibitors intended to have ​minimal activity on wild-type EGFR and optimal pharmacokinetic properties, ​for the treatment of EGFR exon 20 insertion (with potential to target and treat Her2 exon 20 insertions) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). PearlRiver Bio is also developing oral inhibitors targeting C797S-mutant EGFR and undisclosed next generation EGFR inhibitors for NSCLC.

PegaOne
PegaOne is developing imgatuzumab, a humanized, non-fucosylated, anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody for the treatment of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and other solid tumor indications.

Z Factor
Z Factor is developing ZF874, a small molecule chemical chaperone intended to rescue folding of the Z variant of alpha-1-antitrypsin, increasing serum levels of active protein and reducing accumulation in the liver, for the treatment of alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency.

ABOUT CENTESSA PHARMACEUTICALS

Cambridge-based Centessa Pharmaceuticals Limited is a next-generation biopharmaceutical company that aims to reshape the traditional drug development process. The company applies an asset-centric R&D model at scale to advance a portfolio of highly validated programs led by industry leading teams. Each program is developed by an Centessa Subsidiary and supported by a centralized infrastructure and the Centessa management team. 

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