INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Semafore Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a leader in developing innovative small molecule cancer therapies addressing critical cell signaling pathways, today announced the company's name change from ComChem Technologies to better reflect the company's strategic focus. Semafore's therapeutic programs are based on proprietary science related to the cell-signaling pathway PI3K/PTEN -- the primary, non-redundant controlling mechanism for cell survival, programmed cell death (apoptosis), blood vessel growth (angiogenesis), cell migration, and cell proliferation. The company also announced the addition of two highly experienced senior executives to its management team. John F. Crowley, President and CEO of Orexigen Therapeutics, has joined Semafore as a Director and Executive Advisor. Dr. Larry Hertel, the inventor of Eli Lilly's leading cancer drug Gemzar, has joined as Scientific Advisor.
"The name Semafore, which refers to nautical flag signaling, is particularly fitting for a company doing pioneering work with key cell signaling pathways to develop breakthrough cancer therapies," said Joseph Garlich, Ph.D., president and chief scientific officer of Semafore. "The strategic focus reflected in our new corporate identity is complemented by the recruitment of these two individuals with outstanding track records- one a highly successful biotech entrepreneur and the other responsible for developing one of the world's best-selling cancer drugs. Their expertise and active involvement with Semafore will help us deliver on the 'hope' spelled out in the flags depicted in our new logo."
Indianapolis-based Semafore is using the PI3K/PTEN cell signaling pathway to discover and develop new cancer drugs expected to have significant advantages over traditional drugs. Agents targeting extracellular factors like VEGF and EGF have suboptimal efficacy, since redundant pathways involved in tumor development may remain active, while intracellular targets like p53 and Bcl have the drawback of being limited to specific tumor types. PI3K/PTEN's non-redundant control of multiple proliferation pathways makes it an ideal drug target with the potential for significantly greater efficacy than either of these current approaches.
Semafore has licensed exclusive rights to the pioneering PI3K/PTEN intellectual property developed by Donald L. Durden, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Durden is the scientist who discovered the potential significance of PI3K/PTEN in cancer and other disorders as an oncologist and researcher at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. Durden continues to play an active role with Semafore.
Semafore has a portfolio of small molecule drug candidates that encompasses two platforms in preclinical development with clinical trials scheduled to begin next year: Interceptors(TM) to treat solid tumor and hematological tumors and MarrowShield(TM) for protection by a single agent against radiation and chemotherapy-induced anemia, neutropenia, and thrombocytopenia.
"I have been fortunate to have had several chances in my career to work with a strong and committed team advancing science that has the potential to make a real difference in people's lives," said Mr. Crowley. "I believe that Semafore represents this type of opportunity, and I am delighted to be associated with Semafore at this exciting time in the company's development as it progresses its innovative cancer compounds into clinical trials next year."
"Semafore's scientific focus represents a completely novel way of combating cancer," said Dr. Hertel. "Having spent much of my working life discovering and developing new cancer drugs, I welcome the challenge of working with the Semafore team to translate the major advances promised by this approach into new drugs benefiting patients and their families."
John F. Crowley
As Executive Advisor and a member of the Board of Directors, Mr. Crowley will help formulate and direct Semafore's strategic positioning and overall financial and alliance strategies. Currently President and CEO of Orexigen Therapeutics, a drug development company focused on obesity, he is the founding CEO of Novazyme, which was acquired by Genzyme in 2002. Mr. Crowley has served in senior executive positions at Genzyme and Bristol-Myers Squibb. He earned his B.S. from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School and an M.B.A. from The Harvard Business School.
Dr. Larry Hertel
Dr. Hertel will serve in the role of Scientific Advisor for medicinal chemistry oversight and will play a key role in planning the development strategy for Semafore's oncology programs. Dr. Hertel is recently retired from Eli Lilly where he was Senior Research Scientist, Drug Discovery and was a key leader for the discovery and development of Gemzar, one of the few cancer drugs on the market achieving more than $1 billion in annual sales. Dr. Hertel, who has been awarded 20 patents, earned his B.S. in Chemistry from Manchester College, his M.S. in Organic Chemistry from Central Michigan University, and his Ph.D. from Ohio State University.
Semafore is an Indianapolis-based company discovering and developing small molecule cancer drugs to modulate critical cell signaling pathways. The company's programs leverage a breakthrough -- the discovery of the PI3K/PTEN pathway's role as the primary non-redundant controlling mechanism for cell survival, programmed cell death (apoptosis), angiogenesis, cell migration and cell proliferation. Semafore is establishing a leadership position in this important new area and has assembled a strong team of biologists and chemists who have already produced a portfolio of high potential drug candidates. Its lead programs, Interceptors(TM) for cancer therapy and MarrowShield(TM) for protection by a single agent against radiation and chemotherapy- induced anemia, neutropenia, and thrombocytopenia, are in pre-clinical development and are scheduled to enter clinical trials in 2005. Semafore's lead products are expected to have significant efficacy advantages compared to existing and developmental cancer therapies, and its proprietary targeting technology is designed to ensure safety. The company's core technology and intellectual property originally developed by Dr. Donald Durden are exclusively licensed from Indiana University. For more information, see the company's Web site http://www.semaforepharma.com/.
Semafore Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Media:
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Semafore Pharmaceuticals, Inc.