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For Complement’s CEO, storytelling could be just as critical as data

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When he was working for Bayer, Dr. Rafiq Hasan visited a patient who was being treated with the ophthalmology drug Eylea. His doctors were measuring the drug’s efficacy in all the usual data-driven ways, but this patient had recently experienced something that was more important than data points —at least to him. On the ride home after receiving his eye injection, he could suddenly see in detail the leaves on the trees.

“You just think, ‘Wow, what an impact that has.’ And that brings it to life,” Hasan said.

As a trained physician and longtime pharmaceutical industry executive, Hasan knows the importance of data and complex science. It forms the basis of drug development and is critical to the work that’s done in pharma and biopharma industries. But sometimes, it’s not the data that makes the biggest impact or leaves the most memorable impression. It’s the stories.

Professional headshot of Rafiq Hasan

Rafiq Hasan, CEO, Complement Therapeutics

Permission granted by Complement Therapeutics


Hasan is CEO of Complement Therapeutics, a London-based preclinical biotech company that was spun out of the University of Manchester. It’s developing treatments for conditions that are mediated by the complement system, a part of the body’s innate immune system. A dysregulated complement system can be a driver in diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), kidney disease and several hematological conditions. Its lead candidate, CTx001, aims to treat geographic atrophy, a kind of late-stage dry AMD which causes irreversible blindness and currently has no approved treatments.

However, since a dysregulated complement system isn’t always implicated in conditions like geographic atrophy, the company has also developed what it calls the Complement Precision Medicine (CPM) platform, which measures complement proteins and helps identify which patients will benefit from medicines that treat diseases stemming from a dysregulated complement system.

The company just enrolled its first patient in a yearlong natural history study of people who have been diagnosed with geographic atrophy (GA). Dubbed the i-GAIN (investigating Geographic Atrophy Insights) study, it will identify and stratify patients with complement-driven AMD/GA for future interventional studies.

“In geographic atrophy we know complement is clearly one driver of disease, but there are others as well,” Hasan said. “That’s why selecting patients for studies is so important. If it’s not (a) complement-driven disease, you can give every complement modulator you can think of and it won’t work.”

Complement aims to enter the clinic with CTx001 by mid-2024 with patients who were identified during the i-GAIN study.

“I think if you identify the right patients for interventional studies … there’s a great opportunity to do something meaningful,” Hasan said.

A growing market

Although there are no approved treatments for geographic atrophy, two competitors have candidates under review by the FDA, including pegcetacoplan from Apellis Pharmaceuticals and avacincaptad pegol from Iveric Bio, both of which require frequent intravitreal injections. Hasan said these drugs are exciting for the patient population and the companies working in the space.

“With potential approvals coming, I think that will drive a lot of interest and excitement as well,” he said. “I think the fact that we’re on the verge of seeing approvals is great for patients, but I think (it’s) important for the whole community that it also recognizes that modulating (the) complement is an important approach to treatment.”

“If you identify the right patients for interventional studies … there’s a great opportunity to do something meaningful.”

Rafiq Hasan

CEO, Complement Therapeutics

Hasan understands that excitement first-hand. As senior vice president and global head of ophthalmology at Bayer, he grew the business of its blockbuster Eylea from launch to over $2.5 billion in sales in five years, including its approval in five indications over three years.

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