Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 4, 2012 –Sialix, Inc., a company developing products for the treatment and prevention of cancer and chronic inflammatory conditions, today announced the execution of an option agreement with Momenta Pharmaceuticals to license an undisclosed monoclonal antibody therapeutic program under development by Sialix. In addition, Sialix announced the appointment of Jeff Behrens as Chief Executive Officer and Julie Hermann as Director, Business Development & Operations. Sialix’ corporate headquarters will be relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts at Dogpatch Labs, and the company will continue to conduct research operations in San Diego, California.
Sialix is focused on developing therapeutic antibodies against cancer-specific glycan targets. Sialix has assembled, from both internal development and licenses from The University of California San Diego, a set of proprietary tools, reagents, assays, and engineered mice that provide a unique set of capabilities to support this challenging and important goal.
“Massachusetts has invested in innovation and developing our life sciences capabilities in order to lead the world and attract pioneering new companies like Sialix,” said Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. “We welcome Sialix and look forward to them continuing their amazing work here in the Commonwealth.”
"Massachusetts boasts a strong oncology community, and it's exciting to see Sialix bring its novel products for cancer treatment and prevention to our community," said Susan Windham-Bannister, President & CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the agency charged with implementing Governor Patrick's 10-year, $1 billion Life Sciences Initiative.
Sialix was founded by Ajit Varki, MD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and Co-Director of the Glycobiology Research and Training Center at University of California San Diego, and a world leading researcher in glycobiology. The company is developing products to treat and prevent diseases associated with the ingestion of non-human sialic acid (Neu5Gc) found in red meat and other dietary sources. The Varki lab has published a number of papers that explore Neu5Gc, human immune response to incorporation of dietary Neu5Gc into human tissue, and the possible link between this chronic immune response and inflammatory-mediated diseases including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Sialix is advancing two complementary programs: an oncology therapeutic targeting ovarian and other solid tumors, and a prophylactic nutritional supplement to reduce inflammation and the resulting risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
“Dr. Varki’s work in exploring the inflammatory properties of the non-human sialic acid Neu5Gc offers exciting targets for cancer immunotherapy,” said Ganesh Kaundinya, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, SVP of Research and Co-Founder of Momenta. “We look forward to following Sialix’s progress with the program.”
“I am delighted to have Jeff and Julie on board, and am confident the Sialix team has the skills and experience to advance our programs for the treatment and prevention of cancer and chronic inflammatory conditions,” said Dr. Ajit Varki. “Our research suggests the immune response we have seen associated with dietary red-meat may help explain the connection between this diet and disease. Our
ongoing research programs will further explore the link between Neu5Gc and cancer, and the potential health benefits of targeting Neu5Gc.”
Jeff Behrens has demonstrated operational, entrepreneurial and leadership skills in the health care industry. Jeff previously served as Senior Director, Business Development and Operations at Edimer Pharmaceuticals where his responsibilities included manufacturing, finance, operations and business development/alliance/partnering. Prior to joining Edimer, he was Director, Strategic Alliances at Alnylam and Co-founder and Head of Business Operations of “B13” – the Biogen Idec Innovation Incubator. In 2003 Jeff sold his health-care IT company, The Telluride Group, to mindSHIFT Technologies. Jeff participated as an Entrepreneur In Residence at the MIT Sloan Entrepreneurship Center and a mentor with MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service. Jeff has an MS from the Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, an MBA from MIT Sloan, and graduated from Harvard College.
“I am excited about the opportunity presented by Sialix, and am impressed with the large body of research conducted by Dr. Varki’s lab supporting the potential of sialic acid-based biology to address important disease areas,” said Jeff Behrens. “I am looking forward to working with Momenta and am confident we will benefit from their extensive experience in glycobiology and the development of complex pharmaceutical products.”
Julie Hermann’s core skills lie in the areas of business development and operations with a focus on life sciences. From 2011 to 2012, she served as a strategy consultant at Frankel Group. Prior to Frankel Group, Julie held various positions in strategy and operations management at McKinsey & Company, Amgen, and Cerner Corporation. Julie has an MBA from MIT Sloan and a MS from the joint Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.
About Neu5Gc Sialic Acid and Chronic Inflammation
A key molecular difference between other mammals and humans that may contribute to chronic inflammation is the inability of humans to produce N-glycolylneuraminic acid ("Neu5Gc"), a common sialic acid found in other mammals. Sialic acids are one of the common glycan carbohydrates found at the end of glycan chains attached to many proteins. Humans lost the ability to make Neu5Gc ~3 million years ago due to a gene deletion that rapidly swept through the human population. However, today most humans ingest Neu5Gc regularly through dietary intake of red meat and dairy products. After ingestion, Neu5Gc can be incorporated into the surface of human cells and subsequently treated as a foreign antigen by the immune system, resulting in a chronic inflammatory response. This chronic inflammatory state may help explain the association between dietary red meat and the progression of cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as other chronic inflammatory disorders.
About Sialix, Inc.
Sialix, Inc is developing products for the treatment and prevention of cancer and chronic inflammatory conditions associated with ingestion of non-human sialic acids which are found in red meat and other dietary sources. Sialix has licensed a broad patent portfolio from UCSD and assembled a team of industry veterans and glycobiology experts to support the development of these products. The company is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Learn more at www.sialix.com