March 7, 2002
Christopher K. McLeod
Executive Vice President
Personalized Medicine Is Next Frontier
What is the history of your organization’s involvement in life sciences?
McLeod: CuraGen was founded in 1993 by now-CEO Jonathan Rothberg, Ph.D., to apply technology advancements in the fields of information technology and molecular biology in order to gain an understanding of the biological basis for disease and thereby design better drug therapies. At the time, the Human Genome Project was under way, but we recognized that while this was a massive undertaking, it was the easy part. The next step, sifting through the vast amounts of genomic information to understand how genes function in the context of disease, would be challenging—and the key to developing life-saving therapeutics.
What is your vision for the development of the life sciences market?
McLeod: My personal motivation for joining CuraGen is to help cure the complex diseases that plague mankind. My vision for the life sciences market is that we will ultimately have personalized medicine: based on your genetic makeup, you will be treated with a drug known to be most effective for the specific variant of your disease and that will cause the most minimal side effects.
In the short term, the technologies needed for personalized medicine will be first applied in the research and development of new drugs. At CuraGen, utilizing our integrated, functional genomics platform, we have developed a way that we believe will enable us to develop safer, more efficacious drugs faster and more cost-efficiently than the traditional pharmaceutical development process.
What organizational assets have you developed to serve this community?
McLeod: Our key asset is our intellectual property, and more specifically, the 450 employees, researchers, scientists, doctors, engineers, and bioinformaticians creating it. We’ve identified more than 3,000 pharmaceutically relevant genes and are aggressively working to convert that knowledge into new drugs. Over the next few years, we believe this portfolio will evolve into a substantial and valuable product pipeline.
What products and services does your company provide to the life sciences market?
McLeod: Our functional genomics technologies are applied throughout drug discovery and development. In discovery, our SeqCalling technology identifies the rare transcripts in disease tissues that are potential new drug targets. Similarly, GeneCalling identifies those genes that are active in a disease state, or alternatively, modulated by current drugs, in an effort to find new intervention points. Our PathCalling technology helps us identify protein:protein interactions to better understand disease and drug response pathways. With SNPCalling, we identify genetic variations that impact disease susceptibility and drug effectiveness and safety.
We’re working right now to build one of the most comprehensive toxicology reference databases. Using our technology platform, we will be able to obtain gene expression data on the toxicity levels of potential therapeutics and visualize the pathways that are changing. This information will help prioritize compounds, identify alternative indications for a therapeutic and provide assistance in selecting the right patients for clinical trials.
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