Troy Wilson recruits AstraZeneca vet to steer Kura's late-stage pivot
Seven months after Kura Oncology bid farewell with co-founder and chief medical officer Antonio Gualberto, the biotech has found his successor from the ranks of Big Pharma alumni.
With Phase II data in hand for the lead drug, tipifarnib, and a second program almost ready for the clinic, the biotech was looking for someone well versed in targeted therapy development and experienced with regulators, CEO Troy Wilson told Endpoints News.
“I’m basically giving you Stephen’s CV,” he said, referring to new CMO Stephen Dale.
Dale, an AstraZeneca vet who just wrapped up a stint at Kyowa Kirin, now holds Kura’s one-man UK office out of his house in Cheshire, UK.
In addition to overseeing the ongoing Phase I/IIa study for KO-539, a menin-KMT2A(MLL) inhibitor, he will also spearhead the expected launch next year of a combination study of tipifarnib (a farnesyltransferase inhibitor) with a PI3k inhibitor.
A top priority will be to ensure that the trial will be, in his words, “designed in service of outcome.”
“Whilst lots of physicians in drug development, we love the academic side of medicine and development, but we’re here actually to get regulatory approval and expedited regulatory approval so we can get our medicines to patients as quickly as we can,” he said. “That takes experience, it takes a certain type of design to do that.”
The idea behind targeted therapy hasn’t changed much since his early days in the industry, he observed. As a clinical director and later clinical head of oncology, he led the clinical program for Iressa and Tagrisso — the latter of which had nabbed approval just 2.5 years after dosing the first patient. But a lot of the biomarker and diagnostics framework has matured.
Dale expects to spend much more time in Boston, where Kura’s clinical operations and development team is located, once he’s able to. He has yet to meet anyone on the 75-strong team; in fact, many of the company’s stateside staffers have also joined virtually in recent months.
“You do what you have to do in these pandemical times,” Wilson, who’s based in San Diego with the CMC and finance groups, said.