Biotech IPOs were a pretty hot topic in 2013, with some of the young stars in oncology seeing very good uptake and prices. Two companies that come to mind are Foundation Medicine and Agios Pharmaceuticals. Last week, we covered Foundation Medicine (FMI) and their progress with genomic testing, which is used by a number of Pharma companies including Novartis, in their clinical trial program. Interestingly, another company using their platform is Agios (AGIO), a start up biotechnology company focusing on metabolism and its errant mechanisms in cancer related areas. Both Foundation Medicine and Agios are based in Cambridge, MA.
Agios have an impressive Founder list in Lew Cantley, Tak Mak, Craig Thompson, all strong scientists with an interest in biochemistry and metabolism. The Scientific Advisory Board is equally impressive and includes Charles Sawyers, Jeff Engelman, Pier Paolo Pandolfi and David Sabatini, to name a few luminaries. The last two are well known metabolism researchers who have published extensively on the PI3K pathway, as has Lew Cantley. Craig Thompson has published significant research on IDH metabolism and his lectures on the topic are always fascinating and educational.
You can imagine that board meetings at Agios could well be rather different from the average biotech if the founders or the advisory board decided to brainstorm or riff on the science… Whoa, who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall and learn from the experts? For a CEO, though, it might be akin to herding cats! That said, I’m impressed that the company has such a clear, focused approach.
The company have a number of industry partnerships, including a recent extension last month to their existing agreement with Celgene.
With my background in biochemistry, I’m naturally drawn to follow metabolism-based approaches including the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway and anything that involves the TCA cycle. It’s a highly complex area, not least because most cancers have a high demand for metabolic inputs such as glucose and glutamine in order to constantly drive tumour proliferation and survival.
At the recent ASH meeting, they presented interesting preclinical data for AG-221 using IDH2 mutant AML xenografts. While in New Orleans, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Agios CEO, Dr David Schenkein, and discuss their approach, challenges and direction in some detail. He is also presenting at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference today and giving a business update on the company’s progress.