SoCal Immuno-Oncology Upstart, BriaCell, Recruits Top Scientist to Head R&D

SoCal Immuno-Oncology Upstart, BriaCell, Recruits Top Scientist to Head R&D
July 16, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

VANCOUVER – Markus Lacher has been named senior director of research and development for BriaCell Therapeutics Corp. a startup immuno-oncology therapeutic drugmaker, the company announced this morning.

In his new role, Lacher will helm BriaCell’s development of its lead product, BriaVax, a cell-based cancer immunotherapy. The experimental drug successfully demonstrated safety and efficacy in patients with advanced, stage-IV breast cancer during two Phase I trials. The results were seen in patients who had prior failed the available therapies including various kinds of chemotherapy.

Lacher will also assume responsibility for analyzing samples obtained from patients treated in the company’s upcoming Phase I/II clinical trial.

Lacher said he was honored to lead the research and development activities at BriaCell. With a background working in pancreatic cancer treatments, Lacher said he recognized the value of BriaCell's core technology.

“It not only allows me to further embrace my passionate belief in the promise of cancer immunotherapy but also to work with an outstanding team motivated to rapidly advance BriaCell's technology,” he said in a statement.

Since completing four years as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in 2009, Lacher has been involved in discovery and validation of potential biomarkers for cancer diagnosis at multiple biotech companies, including BioTime, Inc. and its subsidiary OncoCyte Corporation, and Cesca. While at OncoCyte Corporation, Lacher developed key components of that company’s therapeutic and diagnostic technology.

In 2012, he founded and helmed his own company, T Cell Therapeutics, Inc. During his tenure at his own company, Lacher designed prostate cancer-targeting biospecific antibodies, according to his LinkedIn profile. Additionally, he managed the projects where the antibodies were synthesized and validated by a contract research organization.

Joe Wagner, president and chief executive officer of BriaCell, touted the skills Lacher will bring to the company. Wagner and Lacher previously worked together at OncoCyte. He said Lacher’s “keen insight into the immune system” makes him the ideal individual to lead BriaCell’s R&D efforts. Wagner is also a recent addition to BriaCell. In June he resigned his position as president of OncoCyte.

Wagner said the expansion of the BriaCell R&D team is timed to “coincide with the manufacturing, testing and releasing of BriaVax for our upcoming clinical trial.” The trial is on track to begin sometime in the early fourth quarter of 2015, he added.

In June, BriaCell entered into an agreement to begin current Good Manufacturing Processes for compliant manufacturing of BriaVax as a result of positive feedback from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the company said. The manufacturing will support upcoming clinical trials of the cancer immunotherapy.

Lacher received his Ph.D. from the University of Bern (Switzerland) in 2001. He is an author of numerous peer reviewed publications and also holds several patents in the areas of cancer therapeutics and diagnostics.

As New Jersey Biotech Booms, Will It Overtake Other States As Prime Location?
A week after Celgene Corporation announced it is officially the mystery buyer of Merck & Co. ’s former 1 million-square-foot R&D site in Summit, N.J., it quickly became our most popular story last week.

The company announced last Wednesday that it is buying the space, ending months of speculation about what Big Pharma company might move into the neighborhood.

The Summit, N.J. site is zoned research/office. The New Jersey site would put operations closer to some of the major biotech and pharmaceutical hubs on the East Coast.

But, by far, the most tempting part of doing business in the state remains New Jersey’s operating tax credit, which allows companies to sell their net operating losses to the New Jersey Treasury. One of the state’s most recognizable biotechs, Celgene, used the program until it became profitable, which was key to it staying in the state, said local officials.

That has BioSpace is wondering if New Jersey is becoming the new face of biotech. What do you think? Can the Garden State compete with other longtime stalwarts like California or Boston?

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