SAN DIEGO, Dec. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- NovaRx Corporation announced today the appointment of Norrie J.W. Russell, Ph.D to the position of President and Chief Operating Officer. Dr. Russell brings to the company more than 25 years experience in drug discovery and a long history of success driving innovation in pharmaceutical discovery and development. He also has experience leading entrepreneurial biotechnology companies developing pioneering new technologies. Prior to NovaRx, Dr. Russell was the President and CEO of Kalos Therapeutics, a biotechnology company focused on the development of cancer therapies. Before Kalos, he served as Chief Scientific Officer at Invitrogen. He has also served as President and CEO of Aviva Biosciences and Lynx Therapeutics.
Prior to moving to the United States, Dr. Russell had a long career at AstraZeneca, where he was Global Head, Biological Science and Technology, with responsibility for the application of genomics, genetics and proteomics to both target discovery and the entire research and development process. Dr. Russell holds a Ph.D in Physiology from Glasgow University, Scotland.
"We are pleased to have Norrie joining the team," said Justin M. Murdock, CEO and Executive Chairman of NovaRx. "His energy, enthusiasm and experience will help drive NovaRx to new levels and accelerate our ability to get innovative new treatments to cancer patients."
Habib Fakhrai, Ph.D, Executive Vice Chairman of NovaRx and the company's founding scientist, will assume the title of Chief Scientific Officer. Dr. Fakhrai said, "Dr. Russell's appointment comes at an important time for the company as we pursue the late-stage development of our first product Lucanix(R). We welcome the experience he brings."
"I am delighted to be joining NovaRx, it is an exciting company," said Dr. Russell. "Lucanix(R) is a very promising product, which we believe will prove to be a safe and effective treatment for lung cancer patients. My clear priority is to ensure the Phase III study is executed flawlessly. In addition, I will be searching to find the best commercialization partner for Lucanix(R) while growing our tremendous pipeline of new product opportunities."
Founded in 1997, NovaRx Corporation is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel cell-based therapeutic vaccines for the treatment of cancer. The company's 24,000 square foot headquarters in San Diego, CA, house corporate offices and manufacturing operations. The proprietary core technology upon which Lucanix(R) is based has been exclusively licensed to NovaRx on a worldwide basis. Lucanix(R) is a registered trademark of NovaRx Corporation.
NovaRx's lead product candidate, Lucanix(R), a whole cell-based therapeutic vaccine comprised of four allogeneic cell lines, has completed a Phase II clinical trial for the treatment of progressive non-small cell lung cancer.
Lucanix(R), which was utilized in that Phase II trial to treat advanced stage NSCLC patients (stages IIIB and IV) who had received zero to five prior chemotherapies, demonstrated a one-year survival of 61% and a two-year survival of 41%, and a median survival of 16 months. These late-stage patients typically demonstrate a less than 30% one-year survival. Typical two year survival for stage IV patients is 5% and for stage IIIB is 10% on average. Currently, 59% of the patients who received Lucanix(R) following one frontline regimen of chemotherapy and entered the trial with stable disease have lived over 41 months. Of the patients enrolled in the trial who are still alive, all have lived more than three years, ten have lived more than four years, and three have lived over five years.
Most importantly, Lucanix(R) demonstrated no significant toxicities. Side effects were generally mild and similar to what one might experience after a flu shot. Given these promising results, NovaRx was granted FDA approval to progress Lucanix(R) development in an international, multicenter Phase III clinical trial, which commenced in August 2008.
Although the Company's current clinical trials are for the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer, the majority of other forms of cancer are expected to be susceptible to NovaRx's vaccine approach. One promising NovaRx pipeline therapy, Glionix(TM) for glioma, or brain cancer, has already been tested in Phase I/II clinical trials.
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