Ex-Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. CEO Leads MA Biotech Startup
Published: Dec 16, 2014
December 15, 2014
By Krystle Vemes, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
Former Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. CEO Tony Coles announced today that he has started Yumanity Therapeutics, a company dedicated to learning more about diseases caused by protein misfolding. Coles, who is responsible for leading Onyx toward the $9.7 billion Amgen acquisition, has based his new company in Cambridge, Mass.
“I am thrilled and inspired to be at the forefront of innovation in an area of real, global medical need,” said Coles. “We believe the time is now to translate the remarkable advances in protein folding science achieved by Sue and her colleagues into a drug discovery engine that we believe can have a rapid and transformational impact on neurodegenerative diseases.”
Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis will be the initial focus of Yumanity. The team at Yumanity will begin by advancing its chemical lead series for Parkinson’s disease.
“While no cures exist and currently available therapies only address the symptoms of these devastating illnesses, our unique approach overcomes the fundamental limitations of today’s target-based drug discovery by exploiting the power of phenotypic screening in yeast and human stem cell-derived neurons,” Coles continued. “This approach is the Yumanity advantage and enables us to identify potential new therapies to modify the cause of these diseases at the cellular level.”
Understanding Protein Misfolding
Protein misfolding can be blamed for a series of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. DNA must be decoded into linear strands of amino acids to form functional proteins. When this process is not perfect, the potential for disorders and diseases arises. Now, Yumanity has developed three discovering platforms to address protein folding defects.
The three platforms originated from Susan Lindquist, one of the founders of Yumanity who has also won awards for her protein folding work. The first is comprised of Several proprietary ultra high-throughput, phenotypic screening platforms, while the second is composed of a human neuronal platform. The last is a drug-target identification platform designed to exploit the power of yeast genetics and protein network analyses.
In addition to Coles and Lindquist, Kenneth Rhodes will be joining the Yumanity team. Rhodes was previously the vice president of neurology discovery at Biogen Idec. He will oversee the scientific work of the integrated platforms, as well as the drug discovery research programs.
Both Coles and Rhodes will bring a combined 40 years of biotechnology experience to Yumanity Therapeutics.