By Nathan Rubbelke, St. Louis Business Journal | February 23, 2021
Wugen, a St. Louis-based biotechnology startup developing “off the shelf” medicine to treat various cancers, has inked a new licensing agreement with Washington University.
The startup said Monday it now has the exclusive license to develop and commercialize the Memory Natural Killer Cell program, a treatment developed at Wash U to treat cancers such as acute myeloid leukemia, multiple myeloma and solid tumors.
The development efforts will be headed up by Todd Fehniger, a professor of medicine in Wash U's oncology division.
"Wugen's Memory Natural Killer (NK) cell-based therapy program will open up new avenues to explore treatment options for incurable and intractable diseases, for which current treatment options have limited or no benefit," said Fehniger. "I look forward to partnering with Wugen to advance these NK cell programs and deliver these much-needed solutions to patients worldwide, and to expand the impact of memory NK cells to solid tumor immunotherapy.”
Wugen Vice President and Head of NK Research Ryan Sullivan said the startup plans to begin clinical trials this year for its Memory NK cell-based therapy program, starting with acute myeloid leukemia.
Founded in 2018, Wugen was created from technology licensed from the laboratories of founders John DiPersio and Matt Cooper of Washington University and Siteman Cancer Center. Wugen CEO John McKearn said the agreement announced Monday builds on Wugen’s “ongoing collaboration” with Wash U to advance treatments for solid and hematological cancers.
Separately on Monday, Wugen said Jan Davidson will serve as its chief medical officer. Most recently, Davidson was senior director for clinical research at biopharmaceutical firm Macrogenics (NASDAQ: MGNX). As Wugen’s chief medical officer, he will oversee the startup’s clinical efforts.
"Jan will be an invaluable asset to Wugen as we continue to develop and expand our clinical footprint. His experience in oncology clinical trials and seeing them through to successful execution will provide critical support in advancing Wugen's candidates through the clinic," McKearn said. "Jan will be guiding the team to achieve the ultimate goal of creating effective therapies for cancer patients."
Based in the Cortex innovation district, Wugen has more than 30 employees.