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Ruga Corporation Acquires a Novel B-RAF Paradox Breaker Program from Selexagen Therapeutics, Inc.

5/18/2012 10:34:18 AM

PALO ALTO, Calif., May 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Ruga Corporation, a privately held oncology company focused on the discovery and development of personalized therapeutics targeting tumor-selective adaptive responses, announced today that as part of its drug adaptation inhibitor program the company has acquired a novel RAF Kinase program to overcome the paradoxical activation of the MAPK pathway in tumors and has appointed Jean-Michel Vernier, Ph.D., as Head of Medicinal Chemistry and David Matthews, Ph.D., as a scientific advisory board member.

"We're delighted to add another candidate program into our portfolio of tumor selective adaptive response therapeutics," said Ray Tabibiazar, M.D., President and CEO of Ruga Corporation. "With the addition of the B-RAF program, which complements our current pipeline extraordinarily well by inhibiting yet another pathway by which tumor cells adapt to grow, survive and metastasize, Ruga is well positioned to meet its goal of bringing three programs into clinical development in 2013. We're very eager to build on the exciting work already completed by Selexagen."

Ruga's proprietary technology platform, focused on tumor-selective adaptation responses, enables a new approach to drug development in oncology and companion diagnostics. Inhibition of B-RAF has broad therapeutic potential in indications such as melanoma, colon, ovarian and thyroid cancer. However, B-RAF inhibition can paradoxically induce drug-induced adaptation in RAS activated cells, and as such may underlie the promotion of secondary skin lesions seen in cancer patients with first generation agents, and accelerated growth of RAS-mutated tumors preclinically. It is also possible that paradoxical activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway could provide at least one escape route to drug resistance. A novel agent capable of counteracting this adaptive response could have broad appeal for cancer treatment.

Lauren Otsuki, Founder and CEO of Selexagen, remarked, "We truly believe Ruga is on the cutting edge of oncology research and that the area of tumor-selective adaptive responses will become a cornerstone of future oncology diagnosis and therapy. With the combination of the Ruga team already in place and the recent additions of Selexagen Founder and CSO Dr. Patrick O'Connor and Dr. James Freddo, we are confident Ruga will prove successful as the company advances this B-RAF adaptation inhibitor program and multiple other novel compounds into clinical development."

Concurrent with the in-licensing of the B-RAF program, Ruga adds to its management team Dr. Vernier, a seasoned medicinal chemist with 18 years experience. Prior to joining Ruga, Dr. Vernier was Vice President of Chemistry at Selexagen Therapeutics where he directed oncology drug discovery programs. In addition, Dr. Vernier served as Vice President of Discovery Chemistry at Ardea Biosciences, which was recently acquired by AztraZeneca plc. At Ardea Biosciences, Dr. Vernier's chemistry team delivered clinical candidates in the domain of oncology, gout and HIV. Several compounds from those efforts are now in advanced clinical trials, including the MEK inhibitor RDEA119/BAY869766 and the URAT1 inhibitor RDEA3170. Dr. Vernier also led chemistry groups in several companies including, Valeant Pharmaceutical, Merck Research Laboratories and SIBIA Neurosciences that delivered clinical candidates in the areas of inflammation and neurology. His contributions include more than 20 granted U.S. patent applications and more than 30 peer reviewed publications. He received a Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry from the University Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France and was a postdoctoral fellow at Colorado State University.

Ruga has also elected Dr. David Matthews to serve on the company's scientific advisory board. Dr. Matthews received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For two decades, Dr. Matthews worked for Agouron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., now Pfizer, La Jolla, where he was a scientific founder and most recently served as Pfizer Distinguished Research Fellow, Head of Structural Biology, Computational Chemistry and Bioinformatics.

From 1971 to 1985, Dr. Matthews was a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, where he led his team researching protein structure, enzyme mechanism of action and the stereochemical basis of inhibitor and drug binding to proteins of chemo-therapeutic interest. He is a founder of Selexagen Therapeutics and consults widely in the use of protein structure to inform medicinal chemistry for drug discovery. Since retiring from Pfizer in 2005, Dr. Matthews has worked collaboratively on malaria drug discovery with several organizations including the Medicines for Malaria Venture (Geneva) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, Division of Cellular Biology, the Scripps Research Institute.

About Ruga Corporation
Ruga Corporation is a drug discovery and development company focused on innovative medicines for the treatment of cancer. The company's approach is directed against novel tumor-specific adaptive responses which encompass endoplasmic reticulum stress, tumor microenvironment adaptation and tumor metabolism targets. Ruga's programs benefit from strong gene-disease linkage which is expected to accelerate personalized drug development by allowing selection of responder patient populations, enabling more focused clinical trials. For more information, please visit Ruga's website at

About Selexagen Therapeutics, Inc.
Selexagen Therapeutics, Inc. is a privately held, cancer therapeutics company designing and developing the next generation of targeted therapeutics for cancer patients. Utilizing molecular modeling and structure based drug design technologies, Selexagen designs excellent drug-like chemical libraries from which development candidates are rapidly evolved and positioned for clinical trials in cancer patients. For more information, visit Selexagen's website at

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Media Contact:
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