Knopp Biosciences Announces Recruiting of Key Scientific Executives and Completion of Laboratory Expansion
May 2, 2012
PITTSBURGH, Pa., May 2, 2012 - Knopp Biosciences LLC today announced the recruiting of key scientific executives and the completion of a significant laboratory build-out as part of its expanded activity in pharmaceutical discovery.
In addition to doubling its R&D facilities to 20,000 square feet, Knopp has recently doubled its head count to 33 with the addition of mostly Ph.D.-level biologists and medicinal chemists. Hired to lead Knopp's newly launched chemistry effort is Steven Boyd, Ph.D., formerly of Array BioPharma and Abbott Laboratories. Leading the expanded biological research effort is Ian Reynolds, Ph.D., formerly of Merck & Co. and the University of Pittsburgh.
"Dr. Boyd brings to Knopp veteran industry leadership and a track record of discovering new molecules successfully advanced into clinical development," said Steven Dworetzky, Ph.D., Knopp's Vice President of Discovery Research. "Working alongside Dr. Boyd, Ian Reynolds will lead our expanded biology team after decades of pharmacology experience, with a focus on Parkinson's disease and the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in neurodegeneration. Their collective leadership strengthens our position to discover and advance novel modulators in our target areas of interest, namely mitochondrial function and ion channel activity."
The expansion of Knopp's pharmaceutical R&D effort follows an August 2010 agreement under which the company exclusively licensed the development and commercialization of dexpramipexole, a candidate for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), to Biogen Idec of Weston, MA. As previously reported, dexpramipexole is now in a global Phase 3 clinical trial, called EMPOWER, with top-line data expected to read out in the fourth quarter of 2012. Knopp retains milestone and royalty interests in dexpramipexole as well as development support and certain U.S. commercialization roles.
"While dexpramipexole in ALS remains our most advanced asset, the pharmacological mechanism of the drug represents the foundation of our discovery research," said Michael Bozik, M.D., president and CEO of Knopp. "We've greatly strengthened this foundation by recruiting Steve Boyd to head medicinal chemistry and Ian Reynolds to lead our biology team."
Dr. Boyd joins Knopp as Senior Director of Chemistry after 11 years at Array BioPharma in Boulder, CO, where he was most recently responsible for metabolic disease drug discovery programs and where he led discovery collaborations with Eli Lilly, Amgen, ICOS, Procter & Gamble, and Genentech. Previously he spent 13 years as a research investigator and group leader in chemistry at Abbott Laboratories. He completed his graduate studies in chemistry at the University of California at Los Angeles and postdoctoral research funded by the National Cancer Institute at the University of Wisconsin.
Dr. Reynolds joins Knopp as Senior Director of Biology after seven years at Merck Research Laboratories in West Point, PA, where he led drug discovery groups in Parkinson's disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and ophthalmology. A recognized authority in mitochondrial biology, he served earlier as Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Pittsburgh and as Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He completed his graduate studies in pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University and his postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago.
Dexpramipexole is a novel, orally administered compound under development for the treatment of ALS.
Dexpramipexole has shown neuroprotective properties in both in vitro assays and in vivo ALS models, and may work by increasing the efficiency of mitochondria, the energy producing portion of the body's cells. Mitochondria in the motor neurons undergo significant stress in ALS patients. In a Phase 2 study, dexpramipexole achieved its primary objective evaluating safety and tolerability and also showed a trend toward dose-related slowing of functional decline and a trend toward extending survival at the highest dose (150 mg twice daily). Dexpramipexole has been granted Fast Track status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which may result in an expedited review, and has received orphan drug designation for the treatment of ALS from both the FDA and the European Medicines Agency. The compound was originally identified as a candidate therapy for ALS by James Bennett, M.D., Ph.D., then of the University of Virginia.
About Knopp Biosciences LLC
Knopp Biosciences LLC, based in Pittsburgh, PA, USA, is a drug discovery and development company focused on delivering breakthrough treatments for unmet needs in neurology through innovation, experience, and partnership. The company's lead product candidate is dexpramipexole, an orally bioavailable small molecule in Phase 3 development for the treatment of ALS. Biogen Idec holds an exclusive worldwide license from Knopp to develop and commercialize dexpramipexole, with Knopp providing development support and conducting certain U.S. commercialization activities. Knopp's discovery platform is directed to identifying next generation mitochondrial bioenergetic modulators for the treatment of Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
This press release contains "forward-looking statements," including statements relating to planned regulatory filings and clinical development programs for dexpramipexole. All forward-looking statements are based on management's current assumptions and expectations and involve risks, uncertainties and other important factors, specifically including the uncertainties inherent in clinical trials and product development programs, the availability of funding to support continued research and studies, the availability or potential availability of alternative therapies or treatments, the availability of patent protection for the discoveries and strategic alliances, as well as additional factors that may cause Knopp's actual results to differ from our expectations. There can be no assurance that dexpramipexole will be successfully developed or manufactured or that final results of clinical studies will be supportive of regulatory approvals required to market the product. Knopp undertakes no obligation to update or revise any such forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
Thomas Petzinger Jr.