Zymeworks CSO Paul Moore Tasked with Shepherding Pipeline at Critical Juncture

Paul Moore_Zymeworks

Newly appointed Zymeworks CSO Paul Moore, Ph.D./Courtesy of Zymeworks

After experiencing some recent turbulence, Zymeworks is charting a new course. In January, Kenneth Galbraith took the reigns from company founder Ali Tehrani and promptly set about replacing 50% of the senior management team. The latest addition is Paul Moore, Ph.D., who stepped into the role of chief scientific officer in mid-July. 

In an interview with BioSpace, Moore shared that he initially came to the life sciences industry because he’d always enjoyed science, and more so enjoyed the aspects that involved helping others. “I was always attracted to a more scientific career. I worked in biology, which led to therapeutics. Working in a science that has the ability to help people is very satisfying and motivating,” he said.

Based in Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA, Zymeworks develops bispecific antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates. “Our main focus is on cancer treatments,” Moore said. “We use novel approaches to cancer therapy that try to come up with better treatments than what is presently available.” 

Moore said he’s excited to apply his biology background in this new role, examining Zymeworks’ therapeutic needs and identifying the biological underpinnings to help escalate product candidates to the clinical level.

“One component I’m really excited about is moving from an early concept in the preclinical setting to getting molecules into the clinic, then thinking about how you work with them in the clinic,” he said. “I’m also excited to help consider those early stage programs and new approaches, and then move them quickly into the clinic.” 

A Translational Expert for a Pivotal Time  

In an earlier statement, Galbraith spoke of what Moore brings to the table, noting that “Paul brings extensive experience in preclinical, translational and early clinical development of novel biologic-based therapeutics, and we are excited that he is joining Zymeworks in this key role at such an important stage of our company’s growth.”

The company’s pipeline is primarily in the preclinical and early clinical stages, with lead drug candidates, zanidatamab and zanidatamab zovodotin (ZW49), being evaluated in Phase I, Phase II and pivotal clinical trials and Phase I respectively. 

Galbraith said that with these two assets “progressing rapidly through clinical development, Paul will be instrumental in driving our scientific vision and determining our future product pipeline development strategy as the leader of our renewed early research and development group.”

In June, Zymeworks presented an update on zanidatamab, a HER2-targeted bispecific antibody, at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting. One poster session discussed the product in combination with docetaxel as a therapy for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer, and another session highlighted the drug in combination with chemotherapy and tislelizumab for patients with advanced HER2-positive gastric/gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma. Next, zanidatimab will be investigated in a global Phase III study for gastric and esophageal cancers in combination with chemotherapy and this time, with or without tislelizumab.

Coming up, Zymeworks will present the first clinical data from the Phase 1 study of ZW49, a HER2-targeted antibody drug, at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress 2022 in September.  “We’re very optimistic about the future of the program,” Moore shared.

Moore shed some light on his role leading the company’s early research and development group.

“There are certain boxes we have to check before we put molecules into patients,” he said. “We have to make the molecule to a certain standard and complete certain characterizations of the proteins to make sure that the starting dose for patients is safe. We’re very comfortable with this, but it takes time to fulfill those regulatory obligations. Then, we will think about how we design the Phase 1 studies.”

He has high hopes for these therapeutics and intends to combine existing knowledge with Zymeworks’ unique expertise. “We're working in a pretty competitive area,” he said. “Zymeworks has differentiating platforms and strategies that allow us to learn from what others have done, and also learn from our exciting biology. We put that together to continue to advance really exciting molecules that I think can really help patients.”

A Two-Pronged Attack

From an antibody engineering perspective, Moore highlighted the unique aspects of the company's two platforms. “We have an antibody-drug conjugate platform, which allows us to add different chemotherapies to an antibody. Then, we also have a biospecific platform. We have our own way of building biospecifics that is proprietary,” he said. 

Moore explained that each of the individual technologies can also stand alone. “This gives us a lot of flexibility to take a therapeutic challenge and apply either of those technologies. We're kind of unique in that we have both that we can leverage. Companies may have one or the other, but we have both.”

Down the line, he hopes Zymeworks will be able to save the lives of difficult-to-treat patients.

“There have been a lot of positive advances in cancer therapy but there are many patients who suffer and don’t respond to existing treatments,” he said. “We want to try to help fill that gap.” 

Moore advises those looking to make a career in the life sciences industry to work hard and be determined. “One of the things in science, unfortunately, is that there are a lot of experiments where you have to be persistent and think a little bit long term. Be patient.”  

When an experiment turns up a result, though, Moore said to be opportunistic, and ensure you truly understand it. “See what you can exploit from the result. It's important that you run the controls and really fully understand the result of the experiment. If you see an opportunity that comes from an experiment, be ready to try to explore that angle as well.”

Above all, Moore is looking forward to working with the Zymeworks team. “I’m delighted to be here at Zymeworks. There’s a really exciting core capability of the team in the lab. The team is talented,” he said, adding, “We have really good, seasoned support throughout the company at different levels to move things forward. I'm very excited to be here.”

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