Seeking a cure Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2009
Finalist
Health and Life Sciences

Paul J. Hastings’ goals are lofty: He hopes to create a therapy that could lead to a paradigm shift in the treatment of cancer and, potentially, a cure.

And his company is well on its way: In 2008, OncoMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. filed an Independent New Drug application for a therapeutic specifically targeting cancer stem cells, the first to enter into clinical development in the race to target cancer.

OncoMed’s success began with Drs. Michael F. Clarke and Max Wicha, whose work led to the discovery of cancer stem cells in solid tumors. They hypothesized that the elimination of those tumor-initiating cells would lead to eradication of the tumor and, possibly, a cure for cancer.

According to the company’s Web site, cancer stem cells have mutations that cause the loss of normal limitations on growth, so scientists are working to develop therapies that selectively target tumor-initiating cells. Experiments have shown that those cells are more resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy than normal stem cells, raising the possibility that some treatments may decrease the cancer size but leave behind more of the most malignant cells.

To find a better way, Clarke and Wicha founded OncoMed in 2004, and a year later, Hastings joined the firm as president and CEO and established a commercial enterprise with the scientific and financial wherewithal to capitalize on the hypothesis. To attract the field’s leading scientists, he established a creative, entrepreneurial environment, where scientists have the opportunity to work on the cutting edge of cancer research. And he’s addressed the enormous costs of research and development by establishing a business plan that has attracted equity financing and an ongoing collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, giving scientists the means to pursue their goals along the greatest possible number of avenues and freeing them from any burdens that would inhibit their focus and productivity.

How to reach: OncoMed Pharmaceuticals Inc., (650) 995-8200 or www.oncomed.com