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Cullinan changes name, pivots to autoimmune disease

Dive Brief:

  • Cullinan Therapeutics said Tuesday that it’s expanding into autoimmune diseases such as lupus on the heels of promising research in the cell therapy field.
  • As part of the new focus, the company shed its old name, Cullinan Oncology, and adopted a new logo and website address. Its stock will still trade under the symbol CGEM, and Cullinan will continue to develop a pipeline of cancer therapies as it pursues a wider range of indications.
  • The company separately announced a private placement of about $274 million in stock at a price of $19 per share. The news propelled a 16% jump in Cullinan’s stock price in early trading Tuesday, with shares rising to about $19 apiece. 

Dive Insight:

The Massachusetts biotech is the latest to buy into the promise of using cell therapies to address inflammatory conditions. In the last few months alone, CRISPR Therapeutics, TG Therapeutics, Atara Biotherapeutics, Mustang Bio and Caribou Biosciences have all announced a push into autoimmune disease.

Cullinan’s first prospect in the field is a therapy known as CLN-978 originally designed to treat B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Research on three patients with the condition in a Phase 1 trial showed the drug could deplete peripheral B cells with a “favorable safety profile,” Cullinan said. But the company no longer plans to study the treatment for B-NHL, instead turning its attention to lupus.

CLN-978 is known as a T-cell engager, an antibody designed to recruit immune cells to target disease cells by binding to them both. Cullinan said it will submit an application in the third quarter to start human testing of the therapy in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, the most common form of the condition. It’s also planning to test CLN-978 in other autoimmune diseases.

Research suggests cell therapies could spur long-lasting remissions of lupus, a condition for which most patients require lifelong treatment. Cullinan’s focus on a T-cell engager sets it apart from companies such as Kyverna Therapeutics, Bristol Myers Squibb and Novartis that are working with CAR-T therapies. The company says its therapy may offer a “novel solution” to some of the safety and logistical issues that might crop up with CAR-T treatment.

In slides prepared for investors, Cullinan also stressed that its oncology treatments outside of CLN-978 remain on track. The company has five other therapies that have advanced to at least Phase 1, including one that’s in Phase 3 testing for non-small cell lung cancer.