Forty Seven adds Nobel winner Jim Allison to a dream team of scientific advisers

Forty Seven has added immunology superstar and newly minted Nobel laureate Jim Allison to its advisory team.

The immuno-oncology startup said Wednesday that Allison will be joining its scientific advisory board, along with three other heavyweights from the research world: Stanford’s Ronald Levy, MD Anderson’s Padmanee Sharma, and Georgetown’s Louis Weiner.

Ronald Levy

The dream-team advisers will be guiding Forty Seven on development of its lead product, an investigational monoclonal antibody known as 5F9. The antibody targets the CD47 receptor, which the company describes as “a ‘don’t eat me receptor’ signal that cancer cells commandeer to avoid being ingested by microphages.” 5F9 is currently in Phase I/II testing for a variety of cancers.

Padmanee Sharma

Earlier this week, Allison was named a 2018 winner of the Nobel prize for physiology and medicine for his work on understanding the inhibition of negative immune regulation in cancer therapy. Allison currently serves as director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Research and executive director of Immunotherapy Platform at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He shared the prize with Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University.

Louis Weiner

Allison will be joined on the board by Levy, whose immunotherapy research led to the development of the blockbuster therapy rituximab; Sharma, a top clinical investigator in immunotherapy who’s married to Allison; and Weiner, a leading monoclonal antibody researcher. 

Mark McCamish

“Each of these appointees is recognized worldwide as a pioneer in developing novel therapeutics that mobilize patient’s immune systems to fight disease,” says Forty Seven CEO Mark McCamish, in a statement.  We look forward to working closely together to expand our understanding of macrophage activation as a new modality for treating cancer and to advance 5F9 forward as a monoclonal antibody against CD47, with potential in multiple oncology indications.”

Founded by Stanford University luminary Irv Weissman, Forty Seven raised $116.3 million from its initial public offering in July. The company is currently running a Phase Ib clinical trial with Germany’s Merck KGaA evaluating 5F9 in combination with Merck’s avelumab in the treatment of ovarian cancer.

Image: Jim Allison. MD ANDERSON

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Skyhawk Therapeutics Waltham, MA
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