A Peek Inside Ex-Dendreon CEO, Amgen Scientists' New Startup Alpine Immune Sciences

A Peek Inside Ex-Dendreon CEO, Amgen Scientists' New Startup Alpine Immune Sciences
March 3, 2015
By Krystle Vermes, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Former Dendreon Corporation CEO Mitchell Gold appears to be staying in the biotech industry now that his startup company, Alpine Immune Sciences, Inc., has raised $1.3 million in seed funding. Additionally, Gold told the Puget Sound Business Journal this week that Alpine will focus on protein therapeutics and the broad use of immunotherapy outside of cancer treatment.

The startup, which was founded in January, could potentially focus on diseases ranging from psoriasis to lupus. Two former scientists from Amgen , Michael Kornacker and Ryan Swanson, have joined Gold at Alpine. Kornacker has expertise in the engineering of human proteins, while Swanson has performed discovery research around T cell costimulatory molecules in the past.

Gold noted that by finding a way to “turn off” the immune system, his startup might be able to help patients cope with a variety of autoimmune diseases. He is also focusing on keeping the price of future treatments to a minimum.

Dendreon Files for Bankruptcy
Gold’s former company, Dendreon, filed for bankruptcy protection back in November 2014. This came after the company was able to develop Provenge, an immunotherapy designed to target advanced-stage prostate cancer.

The drug was approved back in 2010. However, Provenge’s price tag of $93,000 made it difficult for patients to obtain and use, according to Bloomberg.

After the bankruptcy announcement, Dendreon stated that it would continue to provide Provenge to patients who need it and maintain operations through its financial restructuring.

"We are pleased to have the support of a substantial majority of our senior noteholders through this restructuring and sale process,” said W. Thomas Amick, president and chief executive officer of Dendreon, at the time of the announcement. “We thank our employees for their continued hard work and dedication and for their commitment to help deliver Provenge to patients who are in need of immunotherapy."

Provenge is also known as sipuleucel-T, and it is defined as a cancer vaccine. This means that it boosts the body’s immune system to prevent infections and encourages it to attack prostate cancer cells. Provenge is typically given to patients when the body is no longer responding to hormone therapy. White blood cells are extracted from the patient, and then exposed to the cancer cells. They are eventually infused back into the patient’s body to help other immune system cells attack the cancer.

BioSpace Temperature Poll
Last week controversy erupted over the compensation package for Sanofi’s new CEO, Olivier Brandicourt, with several French government officials decrying the amount, calling it "incomprehensible." Brandicourt could walk off with as much as $4.5 million in a “golden handshake” payment in addition to making $4.76 million a year. That base figure is comprised by a fixed annual salary of $1.36 million a year, which is supplemented by a performance-related bonus of between 150 to 250 percent, as well as stock options and performance shares.

So BioSpace wants your opinion, what do you think?

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