An in-depth look into the lab-based development of the growth-factor controlling drug that led to the founding of M3 Biotechnology got a thorough discussion and explanation at a recognition event in Seattle last month for Joseph Harding, PhD, and his guiding role in development of the drug.
The recognition event, where Harding provided a large audience an unusual in-depth
look at the drug whose underlying premise is controlling the body’s growth-factor
function, was The “Innovators” program, , a presentation put on periodically by Washington State University to recognize advancements occurring at WSU.
In his presentation that dealt with the multi-disease-impacting future that could await M3’s series of drugs, Harding singled out the contributions of , Leen Kawas, PhD, now the president and CEO of M3, whose oversight of commercialization and fund raising hold the key to M3’s future.
Kawas earned a doctorate of pharmacy in Jordan and worked as a clinical and retail pharmacist in Jordan, an experience she found valuable but which also left her itching to get back into academia.“Learning the drug approval process, understanding reimbursement issues, and patient interaction were all very helpful,” Kawas says, “but I needed a new challenge and wanted to do work with more impact.”
Kawas’ background guides her appreciation of the interplay between the chemistry and biology that underlies M3’s platform. That same background also gives her the credibility to lead the company and guide its drugs to clinical trials and, ultimately, the therapeutic marketplace.
“There is hardly a family that isn’t touched by a neurodegenerative disease at some point,” Kawas says. “We can’t guarantee success, but it’s an approach that looks like it has promise, and we’ll see where it goes over the next couple years. “And we want to produce pharmaceuticals that people can afford, which was one of our core tenets when we started this. We didn’t want $100,000 treatment, but rather treatments that everyone can afford, that insurance companies will be happy to pay for.” Kawas’ adds.
“Effectively and selectively controlling growth factor function is one of the holy grails of medicine,” says Joe Harding, Washington State University professor of physiology and neuroscience.
Too much or too little growth factor action is the hallmark of our most devastating diseases—from cancer, where over-activation of growth factors leads to uncontrolled cell division and the loss of cell adhesiveness associated with metastasis, to neurodegenerative diseases where augmented growth factor activity would be helpful in halting degenerative processes and restoring lost mental and motor functions.
But the development of useful, affordable drugs has been difficult. While there have been some notable successes that block specific growth factor systems, these drugs suffer from a lack of specificity, the development of drug resistance, an inability to reach the brain, or exorbitant costs. The ability to activate growth factors with pharmaceuticals has been even less successful, and no FDA-approved drugs are available.