John C. Byrd, M.D. Joins Tragara Pharmaceuticals Scientific Advisory Board

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Addition to existing group of outstanding cancer leaders will aid in development of Tragara's TG02 program in chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Tragara Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Dr. Byrd's extensive experience with promising targeted agents for the treatment of CLL will provide invaluable direction for our TG02 development program

Tragara Pharmaceuticals, Inc. today announced that Dr. John C. Byrd, director of the division of hematology at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, has joined their scientific advisory board. A widely acknowledged nationally known researcher and clinical specialist in leukemia and other hematologic malignancies, Dr. Byrd’s research accomplishments relate best to work done between the laboratory and clinic (translational studies) with several therapeutic agents that are active against chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and related leukemias and lymphomas. As a consequence of his detailed laboratory and clinical work, therapeutic agents such as rituximab, alemtuzumab, TRU-016, flavopiridol, dinaciclib and recently, Bruton's tyrosine kinase and PI3 kinase inhibitors, have been identified as active agents against CLL. His scientific expertise and perspective will be extremely valuable to Tragara as it advances its novel targeted anti-cancer therapy, TG02, into clinical development for the treatment of CLL. TG02 is an oral inhibitor of important cyclin dependent kinases (CDKs) that also equipotently inhibits JAK2 and ERK5. The anti-tumor mechanism of action of TG02 is derived from its ability to deplete the anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family survival proteins Mcl-1 and XIAP, producing and promoting apoptosis. This effect is broadly applicable, as many hematologic and solid tumors express high levels of Mcl-1, and is particularly advantageous in CLL, where TG02 has been shown to produce profound depletion of Mcl-1 mRNA and protein, and induce massive apoptosis in primary CLL cells within 24 hours.    

“It is a privilege to collaborate closely with Dr. Byrd, who’s clinical and translational expertise in CLL is highly respected,” said Thomas Estok, president and CEO, Tragara Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “His extensive experience with promising targeted agents for the treatment of CLL will provide invaluable direction for our TG02 development program. The addition of Dr. Byrd to our scientific advisory board complements an already outstanding group of recognized leaders in both solid and hematological cancers."

TG02 is currently in phase I clinical testing in patients with acute leukemia and in patients with multiple myeloma in the United States. A phase I clinical study in patients with CLL is planned for 2012.

About Dr. John C. Byrd
John C. Byrd, MD, is a nationally known researcher and clinical specialist in leukemia and other hematologic malignancies at The Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James), where he is the Director of the Division of Hematology. He is a professor of Medicine and Medicinal Chemistry and holds the D. Warren Brown Chair in Leukemia Research. In addition, he is a member of the Experimental Therapeutics research program at the OSUCCC-James.

Dr. Byrd is active in the Central Ohio Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and a member of this organization’s Translational Grant Review Committee. He has been a faculty member and then co-director of the Clinical Research Training Institute of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and currently serves on the Committee in Training for ASH. He has served on NCI subcommittee H and G. Recently he was elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation and as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in acknowledgment of his research accomplishments. Ohio State selected him as a University Distinguished Scholar in 2008.

Dr. Byrd is also on the editorial board of several leading medical journals, including Blood and the Journal of Clinical Oncology. He has authored or co-authored more than 230 peer-reviewed, cancer-related articles in prestigious medical journals. Most importantly, he and his family (Laura, Edward, and William) are ardent college fans of both The Ohio State Buckeyes and Arkansas Razorbacks football teams.

About TG02
TG02 is a novel orally available, small molecule that targets - equipotently - the major signaling pathways involving ERK5, JAK2, and key cell cycle and transcriptional cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs), with excellent pharmacological and pharmaceutical properties. Preclinical models demonstrate that TG02 has the unique ability to deplete the short-lived survival proteins Mcl-1 and XIAP, and maintain this depletion for greater than 24 hours after a single dose, producing and promoting apoptosis (programmed cell death) to occur. This mechanism produces both single agent activity and synergy when administered with current standard of care therapies.    

TG02 development is initially focused on the treatment of acute hematologic malignancies, including MM and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL); Tragara also will explore the therapeutic potential of the compound’s depletion of key survival proteins in solid tumors. TG02 is currently in phase I clinical testing in patients with acute leukemia and in patients with MM in the United States. A phase I clinical study in patients with CLL is planned for 2012.

In early 2010, TG02 was selected by the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation as a winner of its Biotech Investment Award, which represents a multi-year research grant commitment to fund the early-stage drug development of novel compounds that show potential in treating MM.

About Tragara
Tragara Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a privately held pharmaceutical company based in San Diego, Calif. The company is focused on the clinical and commercial development of proprietary medicines for the treatment of cancer and inflammation. Tragara’s TG02 is an oral multi-kinase inhibitor that targets the major signaling pathways involving ERK5, JAK2, and several important cyclin-dependent kinases. Tragara is managed by a team of entrepreneurs with both Big Pharma and Biotech experience in the development and commercialization of oncology therapeutics. Its investors include: Domain Associates, Mitsubishi International Corporation, Morganthaler Ventures, Oxford BioScience Partners and ProQuest Investments.

Tragara strives to provide much-needed therapies that will contribute to patient health through better survival and an increase in the quality of life. For more information, visit http://www.tragarapharma.com.

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