After twelve years of intense laboratory work, Dr. Hangauer’s project had
reached the commercial scale up stage. The technology was also successful in
attracting significant players in the industry. In 2002, Kinex’s senior
management team began to take shape including former Schering Plough VP of Technology
Acquisition and External Collaborations, Allen Barnett,
Ph.D. as CEO, and successful Buffalo biotech
entrepreneur Lyn Dyster, Ph.D., as VP of Operations. Shortly after, the
fledgling company secured an exclusive option to commercialize the University
at Buffalo Src kinase inhibitors technology that Dr. Hangauer had been
In 2003, Kinex gained a further
advantage through the recruitment of Johnson Lau, MD (former Ribapharm CEO) as Board Chairman. Dr. Lau brought additional industry
contacts in private funding and the
corporate development skills necessary to
assist in the growth of an early stage company. This year, Kinex
Pharmaceuticals was officially launched and is out of the gate strong.
Currently many pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have active programs directed at the
discovery of small molecule protein kinase
inhibitors for a variety of diseases. Kinex is also focused on this hot field,
but with a key differentiating factor that sets it apart from its competitors.
The vast majority of protein kinase inhibitor programs are targeting the
same binding cavity that the co-substrate ATP
binds to. This approach has been more successful than originally expected but still suffers from important
deficiencies, such as the development of resistance in the case of kinase
inhibitors for the treatment of cancer.
Kinex has obtained an
exclusive license to a proprietary new platform technology that produces small molecule
inhibitors that bind in the peptide substrate cavity. This has been a long sought goal
in the kinase inhibitor field, but Kinex is set apart by being the only company to have this technology along with a variety of promising
novel small molecule protein kinase
inhibitors developed with it. Since
these compounds target a different binding cavity on the kinase their chemical structures are quite different from the families of compounds that bind in the ATP
site. This provides Kinex
crowded intellectual property space and a different chemical and biological profile for their compounds relative to the ATP competitive inhibitors. These non-ATP competitive small molecule kinase inhibitors are expected to be less prone to the development of resistance in oncology applications, more
selective, have and to have an improved toxicology profile.
Kinex has developed small
molecule lead compounds that
are potent in
inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. The company is in the process of
synthesizing additional derivatives to optimize in vivo activity. The plan calls for at least one compound to be ready for
studies by the end of 2004 and in the clinic by the end of 2005.
company’s current focus is on Src kinase inhibitors for a variety of tumors,
CEO Allen Barnett, Ph.D. adds, “Kinex’s platform technology is fully capable of
providing leads for
other kinase targets and other clinical indications, such as osteoporosis and
To date, Kinex has been financially supported by the founders
and other private
investors. The company claims to have enough of a financial stockpile to carry it through the choice of compound(s)
for IND. Additional funding will be necessary to support the IND program as
well as early clinical trials.
Currently, Kinex is operating as a virtual company
(having been officially launched in August 2004) that has already made a great
deal of progress through the judicious use of seed money. The intention of the
senior management team is to start building out a full company with funds
raised from their first corporate collaboration.