In fact, he says, if the
Prudent, 50, grew up in
A veteran of two other
Prudent is married and the father of three children, ages 11-17, and gets his taste of the outdoors now by hunting and fishing in
Q: When Centrose was founded in 2007, it was based on technology from the renowned
Initially, we were using that to develop drugs. But our direction changed pretty quickly when, in a side project, we discovered we could use sugars to attach molecules to proteins and use those proteins to direct the molecules to diseased cells.
We're taking antibodies and putting a drug on them -- actually a hormone -- and directing that hormone to cancer cells. The type of hormone is called cardiac glycosides, basically steroids. The first time researchers realized this type of hormone is a potent anti-cancer cell was at the UW-Madison in 1964, with the discovery by
Q: Why didn't that become the basis for cancer treatment?
A: Because they kill every cell. That's what most chemotherapy cancer treatments do and that's why your hair falls out, you throw up and you look sicker than you did before the cancer.
Centrose uses a drug-targeting system we call extracellular drug conjugates. They work outside the cell. This is the first time any company has made a drug that doesn't have to get inside the cell. That makes it very, very potent -- you need only a small amount. We've tested them in primates and have shown they're very safe.
We use a class of steroids that's made naturally in the body, particularly at times when cells are rapidly growing. The thought is that these cardiac glycosides control unwanted cell growth. In the U.S., there is a cardiac glycoside that's prescribed on a daily basis for heart disease: digitoxin. Studies have found that people who take digitoxin have less of a chance of developing cancer.
Our molecule is very closely related to digitoxin. We found a way to attach it to antibodies so that when it binds to the targeted cells, the glycoside is still active. This has never been done before with any molecule. In the past, scientists could put a drug onto an antibody but it has to be broken down by the body to be effective. That's a time-consuming process and it has toxic effects on all cells. Our compounds don't require breakdown, maintaining their targets to the cancer cells.
We have a lot of firsts going on at Centrose, and they are leading to a lot of interesting science.
Q: Centrose is also set up differently from the traditional way, where a company handles the entire drug-development process on its own. Tell us about that.
A: Centrose is based in
Q: What are Centrose's lead products?
A: Our first drug is EDC1 and is aimed at late-stage metastatic cancers, which means the disease has spread. We licensed the first antibody from the
EDC2 deals with head and neck cancers, especially where previous treatments have failed.
EDC8 is getting big excitement now; it is really active on various leukemias. Six companies are making products for it, and we are working with a researcher in
All three products are in tests with animals but none has started human trials, yet. We use monkeys because mice are horrible models for targeted therapies. They don't have the same proteins or immune system and they don't live as long. Mice are completely immune to cardiac glycoside drugs. So we use monkeys -- they're the only animals that will give the safety profile the
We were very pleased to find out that even though these animals are just as sensitive to these steroids as humans are, the drugs don't seem to cause serious side effects, like in standard chemotherapy. We don't see heart or neurological problems, either.
Q: It costs a lot to go through the development and testing stages of a new drug, doesn't it?
Q: How will these drugs be administered?
A: They won't be a pill, and they won't be a shot or an intravenous tube. A lot of these will be based on patches, where the drug dissolves through the skin.
Q: You mean these will be more effective drugs with fewer side effects and no needle or pill involved?
Q: How much money has Centrose received up to now?
A: So far, a little over
Q: So, if all goes well, how soon could any of Centrose's drugs be on the market?
A: It will probably be three to five years before any of them are available to patients.
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