The Inspiration Behind Syfovre, with Cedric Francois, MD, PhD, Apellis


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Cedric Francois, MD, PhD, is the cofounder, CEO, and president of Apellis, the company behind Syfovre, the first FDA-approved treatment for geographic atrophy.

Like many, his path to the top of a successful publicly traded pharmaceutical company did not come fast or easy. He learned the hard way not to rely on “soft commitments” when funding a new venture. He also learned that good instincts and a better bottle of wine can go a long way toward persuading angel investors to open their checkbooks.

In this conversation with Firas Rahal, MD, Dr. Francois details the long and winding path that led him from curious physician-scientist to pharmaceutical industry leader. He shares the story of how Syfovre came to be, as well as the hits and misses through 17 years of fundraising.

Hits include turning around his first angel investor during an impromptu follow-up meeting. Misses include needing to raise money turning the Great Recession in 2009—a time when there wasn’t money to raise. He avoided bankruptcy by selling his company to Alcon later that year.

He also shares how Eyetech/Pfizer’s Macugen—a trailblazer in anti-VEGF therapies—inspired the science behind what would later become Apellis.

Listen to the podcast today to discover:
• More about Dr. Francois’s professional background, which took him from Belgium to Louisville, Kentucky, and from studying hand transplant surgery to developing retinal therapeutics.
• How Eyetech/Pfizer’s Macugen inspired Dr. Francois’s research into macrophages and complement inhibitors, which led him to develop products that target C3, the central protein of the complement cascade.
• What prompted a restart of the Phase III trial for Syfovre, the first FDA-approved treatment for geographic atrophy.
• The data behind how the drug’s efficacy amplifies between 12 and 24 months.
• For physicians: what it’s like to use Syfovre.
• How Apellis got its IPO done in November 2017, a process that included preparing S2 documents in two weeks and going on a four-day road show.
• How Dr. Francois secured his first angel investor, including the unconventional move that sealed the deal.
• His take on the potential diagnostics and other technology that could move retinal treatments forward.

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Cedric Francois, MD, PhD
Firas Rahal, MD
Apellis pipeline