On Monday, Tony Coles, former CEO of Onyx Pharmaceuticals, announced the launch of a new biotech company that will use all its brain power and logistics in finding revolutionary yeast-based cures to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS disease. The technology used was developed by researcher Susan Lindquist who won the National Medal of Science for her brain-related research.
Mr Coles will use the money he got by selling Onyx to Amgen in 2013 to start Yumanity Therapeutics. The new start-up is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts and will use yeast cells to find new treatment to several neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
I love a big problem and a good challenge and I think that this challenge is sized about right,”
Mr Coles said. He also hopes that the new cure for Alzheimer’s and ALS will help about 50 million people worldwide to win the fight against these diseases and bring about $650 billion savings from economic costs. The former Onyx’s CEO also said that his family was also affected by one of these conditions so he feels an extra push in the finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and ALS.
Hollings Renton, ex-chief executive at Onyx, explained why he chose Mr Coles as his successor:
Tony had all the right experience. He’s had senior level executive positions in pharma and biotech, a heavy duty commercial background, and also a medical background. He’s a very, very clear strategic thinker. I just saw leadership. And he’s a values-based guy, cares about people, and is very empathetic. I thought he would do the right things.”
Tony Coles had had a wonderful carrier path as medical researcher before joining Onyx. After that move, many of his colleagues said he was a traitor for choosing to enter the pharmaceutical industry. However, he told them that he had grown disillusioned with the healthcare system and entered the industry to make a greater impact on medicine.
Yumanity will use the biotech know-how developed by Susan Lindquist, former director of Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Three former Lindquist lab’s researchers will join the company, while Mr Coles hopes to employ 20 more.
Dr Lindquist found that damaged brain cells by Parkinson’, Alzheimer’s or ALS disease contain misfolded proteins. These ill proteins also die when they touch yeast cells. Yumanity researchers currently look for a method to prevent yeast cells from dying.
Mr Coles and Dr Lindquist met at a previous company, Fold Rx, that was later sold to Pfizer. Back then, Dr Lindquist asked Mr Coles if he was interested in developing her new work. She said that if Coles had had refused, she wouldn’t have imagined anyone to replace him.
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