J&J's Janssen Doubles Down on Bioinformatics with Celsius Therapeutics Partnership


Janssen Biotech, a Johnson & Johnson company, has signed a collaboration deal with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Celsius Therapeutics.

Under the terms of the agreement, Celsius will use its single-cell genomics and machine learning platform to attempt to identify predictive biomarkers from Janssen’s VEGA Phase IIa clinical trial. VEGA is studying the efficacy and safety of combination therapy with Janssen’s Tremfya (guselkumab) and Simponi (golimumab) in ulcerative colitis.

Celsius will analyze individual cells from patients in the trial, hoping to find biomarkers indicating whether the patient will or won’t respond to the treatment. No financial details were disclosed.

Celcius launched out of stealth mode in May 2018 with $65 million from Third Rock, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Alexandria Venture Investments and others. Since then, it has quadrupled its staff to 40 and brought in Tariq Kassum as chief executive officer. Kassum was formerly chief operating officer of Obsidian Therapeutics.

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“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,” Kassum stated. “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.”

This is the second recent investment in data-based research on the part of Janssen. Janssen Research & Development announced on June 19 that it had entered a collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to develop data-driven approaches to health. It was facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

The three organizations will work together to create and establish a data science health innovation fellowship program run by UCSF and UC Berkeley, working with Janssen product and platform teams. They will recruit serial cohorts of up to five data scientists from industry or academia to work in specific areas, and will have access to computer science, engineering and statistics expertise and technology at UC Berkeley and clinical expertise and data at UCSF.

The fellowships will work at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) at UC Berkeley and the Bakar Computational Health Sciences Institute (BCHSI) at UCSF. The projects will include artificial intelligence-based apps.

“We’re at an inflection point where the health, technology and consumer industries are converging in new and potentially life-saving ways,” stated Mathai Mammen, Global Head, Janssen Research & Development. “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.”

Of the Celsius-Janssen partnership, Christoph Lengauer, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Celsius, stated, “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. 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.”

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