Pico Pharmaceuticals, In Its Early Days, Aims to Make More Potent Cancer Drugs, Anti-Bacterials

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because they can have a potent effect at low doses. These drugs can be made to be taken orally, and they might be able to be given less frequently, Boyd says.

This chemical technique provided by the Albert Einstein researchers hasn’t yet been applied for developing an FDA approved drug. But Boyd says the technology has been licensed to Birmingham, AL-based BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: BCRX) and Cambridge, MA-based Sirtris Pharmaceuticals. One BioCryst compound is in the final stage of clinical trials for cancer.

Pico has its sights on taking its first drug candidate into clinical trials within 12 months. The first candidate, PC8608, is being designed to hit an enzyme critical for cancer cell proliferation, called MTAP. This enzyme plays a role in some of the leading cancer killers-tumors of the lungs, prostate, breast, and colon, Boyd says.

The second option is to go after the kinds of infections people tend to pick up in a hospital—like staph infections or meningitis. Pico has its sights on a sister enzyme to MTAP that’s called MTAN. It hopes to finish up the necessary animal tests by the end of this year.

All of this requires cash, which, as you may have heard, is hard to come by in a recession. Boyd isn’t saying how much money has gone into the company, but I get the drift it’s not a lot. It will take $8 million to $10 million in venture capital to carry out his game plan.

Why get started in San Diego? For one, it has an established talent pool for recruiting experienced scientists. For another, it provides access to biotech investors. But as far as U.S. life sciences hubs go, this is the one place where an Australia native like Boyd can easily go out and take a break by surfing.

“Everything we need to drive the company forward is here,” Boyd says.

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