KEW, Led by Millennium Co-Founder, Seeks to Bring Big-Time Cancer Care to Community Clinics

4/27/11

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medical evidence of what might work best for their patients. This could mean providing a doctor with options such as ordering a genetic test of a patient’s cancer before prescribing a specific treatment. The information system KEW has planned would also be able to present new discoveries in cancer medicine, including molecularly targeted drugs in clinical trials, alerting physicians in KEW’s network of experimental drugs that might work against a patient’s tumor, according to the firm’s founders.

There are already multiple efforts large and small to standardize evidence-based approaches in cancer care. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, for one, is a nonprofit group that publishes treatment guidelines for specific types of tumors based on input from some of the top medical centers in the country. Practices that are part of CCE, with which KEW plans to merge, have already adopted standards or pathways for treating different types of cancer. Yet KEW plans to introduce information on molecular markers for specific cancers into such treatment pathways that those practices use. The firm aims to provide such molecular data, which help doctors make testing and treatment decisions, in a more useful and accessible format to community practices than is typical today.

The company is expected to have its IT system ready within about a year after securing its planned financing, which is expected to close in the near future, Kucherlapati says. He and other founders declined to reveal details about the financing. Yet the founders are well known in the investor community. For example, Kathy Behrens Wilsey, the co-founder (and board member) of KEW, is a former partner at Robertson Stevens Investments in San Francisco and past president of the National Venture Capital Association.

Kucherlapati is known for his founding roles at standout biotechs such as Cambridge, MA-based Millennium, which became part of Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical through an $8.8 billion buyout in 2008, and Abgenix, a West Coast developer of antibody drugs that biotech giant Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) scooped up for $2.2 billion in 2006. He also serves on the boards of Cambridge, MA-based cancer drug developer Aveo Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:AVEO) and Boston-based startup Enlight Biosciences.

There are many more bigwigs in cancer research and treatment who are involved with KEW. Others involved in steering the early plans for the company include MIT biology professor and Nobel Laureate Robert Horvitz and Bruce Johnson, a lung cancer specialist at Dana-Farber and professor at Harvard Medical School.

With all this brainpower behind KEW, it will be interesting to see whether the firm succeeds in providing real innovations for cancer care at community clinics.

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