In his latest project, Dr. John Talley, the lead scientist behind Pfizer’s Celebrex and seven other drugs that have been marketed in the U.S., is trying his hand at developing a cancer medication with improved efficacy and safety.
He’s the chief scientific officer at Euclises Pharmaceuticals, a St. Louis, Missouri startup currently looking to raise a series A of up to $30 million.
Based on his previous work with COX-2 inhibitors, Talley is developing a new anti-inflammatory molecule to treat cancer. In preclinical stages, the drug is initially targeting lung cancer, according to President Randy Weiss, but the technology could be useful in treating all metastatic cancers.
The well-documented side effects and dangers associated with COX-2 inhibitors have led to the removal of Bextra, another of Talley’s creations, and Vioxx from the market and an U.S. Food and Drug Administration-mandated “black box warning” on Celebrex. Although Weiss couldn’t describe the new drug in detail, he said it will reduce some of the risks of Celebrex while expanding the cases in which it can be used.
“Our goal is to develop an agent that will have improved efficacy and will also have reduced side effects in terms of cardiovascular side effects and retaining the gastrointestinal improvement that Celebrex has,” he said.
There are currently thousands of clinical trials being done on new cancer treatments. Last year, seven new cancer drugs were approved by the FDA and the best-selling cancer drugs are generating as much as $3 billion in annual sales.
With a lot of work ahead to get to that point, Euclises is targeting a series A of up to $30 million, according to Weiss.
The company was started last year with initial funding from an i6 Challenge Grant and an investment from St. Louis Arch Angels. Weiss and Talley are also working together on SARmont, a startup that partners with pharmaceutical companies, venture capital firms and research institutions to bring new drugs to the market.