StemPar Sciences

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February 11, 2013 Issue

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StemPar Sciences is focused on Developing a Novel Drug that Targets Cancer Metabolism with a Therapy that Depletes Energy Reserves selectively in Cancer Cells while Leaving Normal Cells Unharmed

About StemPar Sciences:

StemPar is developing powerful, first-in-class cancer drugs that attack solid tumors by simultaneously disrupting their source of energy and their ability to repair chemotherapy/radiation induced DNA damage. The scientific premise of this so-called cancer metabolism strategy has been studied for generations—and earned the scientist who discovered it a Nobel Prize—but it is only recently that scientists figured out how to crack the code of cancer metabolism sufficiently to build a commercially viable drug development effort around it. Our scientific collaborators are at the forefront of this effort and our leadership team has long been at the forefront of transforming breakthrough scientific discoveries into life--‐saving medicines. StemPar cofounder and CEO Barry Sherman, MD played a pivotal role in the development of some of the most important cancer medicines in our generation (Herceptin, Rituxan) and in the process helped build the most successful biotech in history (Genentech).

Interview with:

John Schembri CFO and Barry Sherman CEO

Executive  Bios:
Barry Sherman CEO

Barry Sherman has more than 30 years of experience in pharmaceutical biomedical and academic research. Dr. Sherman was previously the EVP Development and a founder of BiPar Sciences, which was acquired by sanofi-aventis for $500 million. He was Genentech's first Chief Medical Officer, served as President and CEO of Anergen, and was a founder of Pain Therapeutics. Prior to joining the biotech industry, Dr. Sherman was Professor of Medicine and Endocrinology at the University of Iowa-College of Medicine, where he served as Associate Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine and Director of the National Institutes of Health-sponsored Clinical Research Center. He has also served as a board member and consultant to several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Sherman is a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he received both his A.B. and M.D. degrees.


John Schembri CFO

John Schembri has over 25 years experience as a financial executive in the biotechnology industry and previously served as CFO of BiPar Sciences. Prior to that Mr. Schembri led the Finance team at Sirna Therapeutics, which was acquired by Merck & Co. for $1.1 billion. He also served a key role in the $2 billion sale and integration of COR Therapeutics to Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Schembri received his B.S. degree in Business Administration from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California.



Biotechnology–Cancer Metabolism


StemPar Sciences
San Francisco Bay Area

(415) 264-6223


Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – February 11, 2013


CEOCFO: Dr. Sherman, what is the overall vision at StemPar?

Dr. Sherman: Our goal is to develop a novel drug for cancer in a new area of opportunity that is referred to as cancer metabolism.


CEOCFO: How is cancer metabolism different from the other approaches?

Dr. Sherman: Cancer metabolism refers to a situation that reflects that cancer cells are biochemically different from healthy cells in major ways. This is an observation that goes back some time. In the mid 1920’s Dr Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize for demonstrating that cancer cells take up an inordinate amount of glucose compared to healthy cells and they metabolize it in a totally different way. This results in a cellular environment that requires the cells to make many adaptations to what is basically a toxic environment. Those adaptations create vulnerabilities; points at which we can intervene in a way that will result in cancer cell death. That is exactly what we are doing based on work that was done by faculty members at the University of Illinois and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Schools.  


CEOCFO: A variety of companies are looking at this approach in general, dealing with the glucose. What is your niche’? What have you figured out that others have not?

Dr. Sherman: We are doing this with a novel molecule; that targets and engages with an enzyme referred to as NQ01, which is over expressed in major types of cancer and perhaps all types of cancer. We believe that overexpression of NQ01 is one of the adaptations of the cancer cell to the abnormal environment created by these fundamental differences in nutrient metabolism. This NQ01 upregulation is what provides the specificity or selectivity of the drug for cancer cells and protects the healthy cells in a way that results in an effective therapy that will have few if any side effects.      


CEOCFO: What is happening in the lab right now?

Dr. Sherman: With the early funding that we have received we are working on chemistry of the molecule that will provide us with a perfected lead clinical candidate that we will then take forward towards an IND and Phase I studies.


CEOCFO: Is that the SPS-201?

Dr. Sherman: Yes it is.


CEOCFO: Are you looking at particular types of cancer or tumors or at this point is it across the board?

Dr. Sherman: The drug target, NQ01 serves as a very potent biomarker. It guides us to those cancers that are likely to be most sensitive to the drug. It strongly indicates that patients with non-small cell lung cancer; patients with pancreatic cancer and patients with breast cancer will be good candidates for this drug. One or more of those will be the clinical target for our early clinical studies.


CEOCFO: Is this way of approaching on the glucose level in favor with the medical community investors these days? There does seem to be cycles of favorability.

Dr. Sherman: I believe this general area is getting more attention. The thing that attracts us is that our experience teaches us that the key predictor of drug development success is the degree to which you understand the mechanism of your drug. In this situation, there is an uncommon amount of knowledge that has been generated. We believe that the chance of technical success is increased and the risk is reduced because of the solid body of information that has been published on this drug, its target and the pathway that leads to cancer cell death. 


CEOCFO: What has been the biggest stumbling block in getting this from concept to reality? What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your individual approach as well?

Dr. Sherman: Frankly, in today’s environment funding for this phase of translational work that starts with a product at the academic level and transforms it into a drug candidate is more difficult than in prior years


CEOCFO: Not just your knowledge about funding, but in general; what have you learned in the past about drug development, about new concepts and about new ideas that you are able to put into play here?   

Dr. Sherman: We have a sense of what makes a good new drug that has the potential to open up a new area of therapeutics. We believe that a good scientific foundational understanding of how the drug works is critical. We have experience with the hands on efforts needed to move a compound from concept into human clinical trials.


CEOCFO: How far will your current funding take you?

Dr. Sherman: Our next step is a Series A, which we hope to close mid year.


Mr. Schembri: Our current funding allows us to conduct preclinical lead candidate selection activities in advance of the Series A. The funding that we announced this last week is both an initial investment from Troika Ventures and also a larger commitment to participate in the Series A financing we expect that we will be able to close in mid 2013.


CEOCFO: What is in the pipeline beyond your first indication?    

Dr. Sherman: There is the opportunity to use this compound in more than one type of cancer and there are other opportunities that we have identified in this broader area of cancer metabolism that we would undertake, given adequate downstream funding.


CEOCFO: How do you personally and as a company deal with the frustration of working with something that can really potentially make a difference, but the timetable is so long and often so burdensome?

Dr. Sherman: One of the things you learn about drug development is that it takes patience and that there are no short cuts.


CEOCFO: What is next? Will you be attending more conferences? Will you be getting your information out or sort of quietly working on what you are doing?

Mr. Schembri: What is next is some chemistry and lab work that we are doing now in early 2013. However, it is also an active time for us while we meet and continue to talk to some venture groups and strategic groups that would be interested in our story. We think we have one of potentially three Series A partners committed to StemPar at this time and we have a couple of others that we are in ongoing discussions with that we think will round out the Series A syndicate. We will be active on both the finance front and on the development front, and hope that we will have additional news that we can share with you in a year.     


CEOCFO: Why does StemPar stand out for investors and people in the business community?

Dr. Sherman: We have a team with a track record of success; people who are committed to this endeavor, who understand its multidimensionality from the scientific, the financial and development perspective. They are really committed for the long term. It is related to you earlier question. This endeavor takes a mix of determination and patience and understanding of how to do this in a quality way, that there are really no short cuts, and that in the end we are really about the business of trying to develop new drugs to help patients who are in need. 

Mr. Schembri: What sets the team apart and the company apart is two-fold; one is the commitment that the team brings into advancing innovative therapies. It is business, it is our careers, but it is also something that we have a personal commitment to. On both the scientific front and the development front we are more confident about the chance of the success of our program because of the basic understanding of the mechanism of the drug and its target. And, as Barry mentioned earlier, it goes to a much deeper level of understanding which the many drug development programs that have preceded ours provides. With that basis we are excited about moving ahead. We are excited about the ability to really ramp up the program.


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“Our goal is to develop a novel drug for cancer in a new area of opportunity that is referred to as cancer metabolism. We believe that the chance of technical success is increased and the risk is reduced because of the solid body of information that has been published on this drug, its target and the pathway that leads to cancer cell death.”- Barry Sherman


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