Fate Therapeutics Adds Scientific Muscle, Advancing Stem Cell Technology into First Clinical Trial

3/13/09

Fate Therapeutics has wowed people with its big plans to make drugs that activate adult stem cells in the body to treat diseases and regenerate tissues. And now the biotech startup has brought on new scientific talent to help put its first treatment to the test in clinical trials.

Fate said yesterday it has recruited Ken Batchelor, a former senior research executive at drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), to be its chief scientific officer. Batchelor is said to be one of the scientists who invented the urology drug dutasteride (Avodart), a treatment that shrinks oversized prostates and generated $547.9 million in 2008 revenue for London-based Glaxo. Batchelor ushered 11 drugs from target identification to mid-stage clinical trials before he left the company in 2007. Fate also recently hired Dan Shoemaker, previously chief scientific officer at biotech firm ICx Biosystems in La Jolla, to be its chief technology officer.

Fate has big plans to keep its new executives busy. The company— founded by top stem cell scientists at Harvard University, The Scripps Research Institute, the University of Washington, Stanford University, and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research—plans to begin its first clinical trial in the next several weeks involving patients with blood cancer or other disorders who are getting stem cell transplants.

“The combination of [Batchelor and Shoemaker] is very powerful and it really does propel Fate and take it to its next stage of development,” says Scott Wolchko, Fate’s chief financial officer. The biotech notes it also recently added to its list of scientific founders Rudolf Jaenisch, a founding researcher of the Whitehead Institute, who is a pioneer in the study of reprogramming adult cells to a stem cell-like state.

That next stage of development includes the clinical trial, in which one of Fate’s chemical drugs will be used to … Next Page »

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