Accelerator’s New Startup, Oncofactor, Seeks to Spark Immune System Fight Against Cancer

5/24/11Follow @xconomy

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filed patent applications on some, but not all of them. “We’re not talking about three or four targets, we’re talking about tens of targets,” Weissman says.

Besides the raw science, there are other threads to the story that are quite interesting. Warren, at 29, is about as young of a scientific entrepreneur as you will ever see in biotech, where investors often prize management teams who have been there, done that. Weissman said he became convinced that Warren was ready for this responsibility because he got to know her over a two-year period when she did her part-time fellowship at the Accelerator, and was able to handle every task he threw at her, like reviewing the relevant scientific literature, competitive reviews of patent filings, putting together a budget, scientific plan, etc.

“At every step of the way, she stepped up,” Weissman says. “It’s worth the risk to throw her in the deep end of the pool.”

Of course, Warren won’t be doing everything singlehandedly. She’ll lean on a scientific advisory board that includes Pat Gray, the Accelerator’s chief scientific director; David McElligott, the lead scientist at Mirina, another Accelerator startup; Ken Grabstein, the chief scientific officer of Seattle-based Allozyne; Mike Deeley, a former senior director at Icos; Steve Gillis, a managing director at Arch Venture Partners; Larry Tjolker, a scientist at Xori, another Accelerator startup; and Charlotte Hubbert, a Kauffman Fellow at Accelerator.

Oncofactor is the 12th company to get its start inside Accelerator, a venture-backed operation founded in 2003. Since it is starting at such at early point, without a license to technology that was tested at a university or somewhere else, it will take a little more time to reach the usual milestones that Accelerator companies need to reach if they are going to spin out of the nest and become freestanding companies with their own administration and infrastructure. Instead of being held to an 18-to-24 month schedule, it will be expected to generate some animal data in about 30 months, Weissman says.

Oncofactor about as early-stage as Accelerator’s past investments in Theraclone Sciences and VLST, Weissman says. That means really early, as in, there’s a lot of work to do.

“It’s what we do here. We do the earliest of the early,” Weissman says.

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