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Celularity looks to advance cellular therapies with Palantir

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Dr. Robert Hariri, Celularity CEO, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the outlook on the evolution of cellular medicine.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: The clinical stage biotech company Celularity has joined forces with Palantir, introducing artificial intelligence into its pursuit of cancer treatments with patented cellular medicine. The company is also going through a de-SPACing process, which is really just the next step in merging with a SPAC. Joining us now is Dr. Robert Hariri, Celularity CEO. We're also joined by our health care correspondent, Anjalee Khemlani.

Dr. Hariri, good to have you here on the show. Let's start with this partnership with Palantir. What will you be able to do now that you've partnered with this company? And I'm also curious if they've taken an equity stake in Celularity.

ROBERT HARIRI: Well, first of all, thank you very much for having me. As you know, Palantir is an absolute world leader in the creation of software systems that compile data, decisions, operational information, and help companies create efficiencies that heretofore didn't exist. So in our industry, cellular medicine is still, to be quite candid, in its infancy.

There's a tremendous amount to be learned by interrogating the biology of the source material that comprises the cellular medicines and also understanding the biological activity-- the the performance in manufacturing, the performance clinically, and then using that data to make decisions about selecting products for different diseases, how to administer them, and ultimately, how to present them to the regulatory community for things like registrations.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Dr, Anjalee here. So let's talk about that, because, obviously, the idea of AI in health care is really growing. And different companies have tried different ways. We know that IBM Watson Health, for example, struggled in some ways. So what makes this different? And what specifically are you hoping to get out of it that can actually help the end consumer?

ROBERT HARIRI: Certainly. And I want to also mention that we're very fortunate that Palantir not only decided to work with us as a company in cellular medicine, but they also, in fact, have an interest in participating as an equity owner of the company, which as you know is quite valuable to us. So first and foremost, the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning has first been deployed in the genomic sphere, where it's been used to help interrogate these enormous data sets that come with every cellular medicine.

The genomics tools that are available today to understand what genes are responsible for what diseases and so on and so forth is extremely helpful information to a company like ours that is developing immunotherapy products that treat different cancers, as well as products to treat degenerative diseases, infectious diseases, and so on. What Palantir brings to this relationship is the ability to work with enormous data sets and help us begin to decipher what's important, what's meaningful for us as we determine which product to take into which disease, and what's potentially predictive of the activity-- the biological activity in patients.

So as you know, we're very focused on accelerating the time to develop products that can be registered by the FDA. We're also looking at using tools like real world data to help create efficiencies around developing those products. And we also need to build a large and capable data system which can accommodate enormous numbers of, for example, donor cell lines. Every donor comprises a unique genome, and the ability to manage that enormous data set is something that our industry can dramatically benefit from.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Absolutely-- well, definitely a lot of interest in the space right now. Let's go back to the structure, though, of the company right now. Obviously, you went through a SPAC, you're going through a de-SPAC process right now. It's really a lot of interest in that area. So let's talk about that. What is the de-SPACing process like--

ROBERT HARIRI: As you know--

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: In this market?

ROBERT HARIRI: As you know, we chose a pathway to become a public company by merging with a special purpose acquisition corporation that had very, very similar philosophies to ours as how to build a world leader in cellular medicine. The process of de-SPACing involves that special purpose acquisition corporation achieving their shareholder agreement and vote to consummate the merger and then to transition our equity owners into equity owners in the new corporation.

We anticipate that this process will take the next several weeks. And we hope to have completed and closed the transaction sometime in June.

KRISTIN MYERS: Doctor, I want to ask you a little bit about the work that you guys are doing over Celularity. I think so many people pointed to the pandemic as having a lot of wins, at least when it came to the medical community, but also research and development, when it came to pharmaceuticals, and treating diseases, and coming up with new treatments. Curious to know if there's any, perhaps, wins or lessons from the pandemic that can be applied to a lot of the work that you guys are doing at Celularity.

ROBERT HARIRI: That's a fantastic question. We actually saw this, obviously, as a call to action-- an emergent call to action. But we also saw it as a great opportunity to introduce cellular medicine products, namely immunotherapeutic products, into the management and treatment of viral illnesses. And as you may know, Celularity was the first company to receive acceptance of our investigational new drug application using our natural killer cells to seek out and destroy virally-infected cells.

What that basically means is that there may be a potential avenue in the future to move away from treating viral illnesses with antiviral agents, which tend to be anti-metabolic agents, to actually augmenting a patient's immune system so they can put up a better fight against the threat. Now, in the case of COVID, we were able to identify the virus, but COVID-19 might, in fact, be a dress rehearsal for the next pandemic.

And the next pandemic may be with a virus or other infectious agent that we don't identify. So if you have a generic, active immunotherapeutic that helps protect the patient from a viral illness, that might be applicable across the range of known and unknown viral pathogens. And I think that that's a very meaningful place for immunotherapy to move in the future.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, we're going to have to leave it there-- Dr. Robert Harari, Celularity CEO Thanks so much for joining us.