Drug Development 101: A Story About OncoGenex and the FDA

Most people in the local business community have never heard of Bothell, WA-based OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OGXI). But the little company, working on an experimental prostate cancer drug, has an interesting story that’s about to climax this year. In its own way, the OncoGenex story may even help shed some light on the labyrinthine process for how an ordinary molecule grows up to become a drug.

That was my hope anyway, when I went in for an interview this week at KUOW 94.9 FM, Seattle’s public radio station. Host David Hyde and producer Amina Al-Sadi asked me talk about both OncoGenex and the drug development process—things you rarely hear about on popular radio. Amazingly, they let me talk for 19 full minutes.

The segment aired live yesterday during KUOW’s new show, The Record, that runs weekdays from Noon to 2 pm PT. For those who missed it, you can find it here.

I was a bit worried about oversimplifying drug development by speaking broadly and avoiding all the usual precise jargon and acronyms. The goal here wasn’t to speak to the insiders, but to reach a broader audience of curious folks who don’t live and breathe biotech and the FDA on a daily basis. I wanted to tell the story of a journey, of how a compound starts off as a glimmer in some scientist’s eye and then goes through a gauntlet of lab tests, animal studies, and clinical trials. Most people have no idea that can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take 15 years before—maybe just maybe—paying off.

We’ll find out later this year if OncoGenex has a real medicine for prostate cancer or not, and whether its drug development odyssey will continue on the road to the FDA. Thanks to the folks at KUOW for helping bring that story, and a few broader biotech themes, to a wider audience.

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