Cambrian Biopharma – Juliette Han Q&A

Longevity biotech exclusive Q&A with Cambrian Biopharma’s Chief Operating Officer.

Recently we reported on Cambrian Biopharma, a New York-based biotech which raised $60 million to develop a pipeline of companies and therapeutics to treat diseases of aging. This exciting development piqued our interest, and the Cambrian triumvirate of James Peyer, CEO and Co-Founder, Juliette Han, COO and Daisy Robinton, Scientist in Residence were kind enough to answer our questions.

Longevity.Technology: Cambrian made a splash when they emerged from stealth, and we were intrigued by their unique operational strategy, which is called DisCo (this is D, delightful; I, irresistible), and stands for distributed drug discovery company. Working as a hub-and-spoke model, Cambrian hopes to develop a family of companies; it is the largest shareholder in one of its affiliate companies, Sensei Bio, which raised $133m when it began trading last month.

First out of the gate, Dr Juliette Han holds a PhD in Neuroscience from Harvard University and is Cambrian’s Chief Operating Officer.

“We’re figuring out a way to make the drug discovery process more thoughtfully and flexibly resourced and programmatic, to increase its overall chance of success,” she says of Cambrian‘s mission. “Our sweet spot is finding scientists with promising druggable targets that align with our mandate, and we provide the drug discovery and operational expertise.”

The Cambrian support model as a logical approach – almost Henry Ford-like. Does Dr Han feel it has a synergistic benefit, development-wise?”

“I would like to liken our model to that of a top Michelin star restaurant vs the Henry Ford assembly line,” says Dr Han. “Such restaurants are able to assemble a diverse team each of whom is a top tier expert in his/her role – the sommelier, the chef, the server, the maître d, the mixologist, etc. This team is expected to deliver at the level of excellence one would expect of such a restaurant for every meal, every day. In addition, the team needs to deliver with consistency under constantly fluctuating conditions, ranging from changing market trends, resources, competition, and even regulatory.


“I would like to liken our model to that of a top Michelin star restaurant vs the Henry Ford assembly line”


“This is how our team is designed to operate. We are building a core team comprised of venture, R&D, and operations, pulling in additional experts for each workstream/content area. The team is expected to leverage their expertise to adapt and customize its approach for each of our programs, but to deliver consistently regardless of what new challenges they face.

This A team is able to flexibly deploy based on the needs of the program, pulling in the right expertise to meet that next milestone. In this way, it absolutely has synergistic benefit: even our earliest stage programs are able to get input from the best experts they may not have had access to alone.

“In addition, our teams come together centrally to share best practices and quickly pivot their approach as needed. This way, our programs are gaining the experience and knowledge of not only the experts aligned to their program, but also those broadly within Cambrian’s team and network.”

75 to 80% of drug trials fail are due to problems with efficacy and/or safety; is Dr Han hoping for a higher success rate at Cambrian?

“The success rate we compare our programs to will depend both on the indications our programs go after, and improvement in the probability of success data in the industry,” she says. “As for indication, as long as the program meets our investment mandate of impact on longevity/health span, we won’t shy away from “difficult indications” or innovative platforms which may have higher failure rates than average.

“As for the success rates, one of our focus areas is building out an innovative portfolio and valuation projection model that incorporates latest thinking and progress on success rates. There are numerous innovative groups applying machine learning to get nuanced data on success rates, and we are actively working to identify them and find ways to collaborate.

We hope that success rates go up for every program and every company in the industry, not just us! And if we find that our strategy is helping improve our rates, we will happily share our learning even if that means we are bringing up everyone’s batting average.”

Look out for our interviews with James Peyer here and Daisy Robinton coming soon.

Image courtesy of Cambrian Biopharma

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