aTyr Pharma Announces Formation of Therapeutic Advisory Board

Renowned Drug Hunters Assembled to Guide the Discovery of Innovative Protein Therapeutics Based on Physiocrine Pathways

Mar 01, 2011, 08:00 ET from aTyr Pharma

SAN DIEGO, March 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- aTyr Pharma, the Physiocrine therapeutics company, today announced the formation of a therapeutic advisory board. The members are Drs. Thomas O. Daniel, L. Patrick Gage, Rich Heyman, Keith James, Paul Negulescu, Timothy Rink, Wendell Wierenga and Doug Williams. aTyr has convened this select group of experienced drug-hunters to guide the Company's discovery and development of innovative Physiocrine-based medicines.

Dr. John Mendlein, executive chairman of aTyr, stated, "We assembled a team of scientists with a track record of creating innovative medicines from new areas of biology. True innovation in our industry is a challenging endeavor. With a depth of experience, our therapeutic advisory board will provide important insight to support aTyr in the pursuit of new therapeutics valued by patients, physicians, payors and partners."

"We are extremely pleased to have such a preeminent group of R&D leaders join the aTyr team," commented Dr. Jeff Watkins, chief executive officer of aTyr. "Each of these advisors has extensive drug development expertise in biotech and big pharma settings. They have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to build high quality R&D organizations and to transform promising research into products. Their combined experiences and expertise will be invaluable in helping us convert our interrogation of novel Physiocrine pathways into much-needed new medicines that extend the available therapeutic options for patients."

Thomas O. Daniel, M.D.

Dr. Daniel is president, research and early development at Celgene Corporation. Previously, he joined Ambrx as chief scientific officer, was senior vice president, research at Immunex, and vice president and inflammation area leader for Amgen. Prior to these positions, he was Hakim Professor of Medicine and Cell Biology at Vanderbilt University, where he practiced nephrology, built translational research organizations in the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center, and led an investigative research effort that defined molecular determinants of endothelial function in health and disease. He earned an M.D. from University of Texas, Southwestern.

L. Patrick Gage, Ph.D.

Dr. Gage is chairman of the board of directors at Cytokinetics and executive chairman at Virdante Pharmaceuticals. Previously, he was president of research and senior vice president, science and technology at Wyeth, president of Genetics Institute, and vice president responsible for U.S. drug discovery at Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. In addition, he has served as director or chairman for a number of biotechnology companies including Serono (now a subsidiary of Merck KGaA), Adnexus (acquired by BMS), Neose Technologies and PDL BioPharma. He has been involved in the development of more than 10 first- or best-in-class products. He earned a S.B. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Chicago.

Rich Heyman, Ph.D.

Dr. Heyman is chief executive officer and co-founder of Aragon Pharmaceuticals. Previously, he was chief scientific officer at Kalypsys and X-Ceptor Therapeutics (acquired by Exelixis). Prior to these positions, he was vice president of research at Ligand Pharmaceuticals, where he led the identification and development of Panretin® and Targretin® for the treatment of cancer, and trained at the Salk Institute. He earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Minnesota.

Keith James, Ph.D.

Dr. James is vice president and visiting investigator at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. Previously, he was in a variety of executive research positions at Pfizer, including vice president, discovery research and research site head of Pfizer La Jolla. He was responsible for research leading to the discovery of Relpax® for migraine and Selzentry® for HIV and was recognized for his contributions with the Industrial Lectureship award from the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2000. He earned a B.Sc. in chemistry from Imperial College in London and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Cambridge.

Paul Negulescu, Ph.D.

Dr. Negulescu is vice president, research, at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. He is responsible for leading the Vertex San Diego research site. Previously, he was director of cell biology at Aurora Biosciences (acquired by Vertex). Under his leadership, Vertex San Diego has produced several novel drug candidates, including VX-770, a CFTR potentiator in Phase 3 clinical studies for the treatment of cystic fibrosis. He earned both a B.S. and Ph.D. in physiology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Timothy Rink, MA, MD, ScD.

Dr. Rink is director of Kymab Ltd., Santhera Pharmaceuticals and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. Previously, he was chairman of the Wellcome Trust Technology Transfer Strategy Panel, chairman and chief executive officer of Aurora Biosciences, president and chief technical officer of Amylin Pharmaceuticals and vice president for research at SmithKline. In addition, he has served as a director of several biotechnology companies, including Adnexus, Akubio Limited, Alanex Inc, Astex, BioVex Inc, Ciphergen, CoCensys, Gryphon Sciences, Lorantis Ltd, NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc., Sepracor Inc. and Solexa Ltd. (as chairman; acquired by Illumina), and served on the scientific advisory board at Serono SA. Dr. Rink has been involved in the development of numerous therapeutics, including Requip®, Protonix®, Symlin®, Byetta®, Sensipar®, and Catena®. He earned a Sc.D., M.A., and M.D. from the University of Cambridge.

Wendell Wierenga, Ph.D.

Dr. Wierenga is executive vice president, R&D at Ambit Biosciences.  He currently serves on boards for several biotechnology companies, including as a director for Cytokinetics, Onyx, and Xenoport and on the scientific advisory board for Ferring Pharmaceuticals Research Institute. Previously, he was executive vice president of R&D at Neurocrine Biosciences, chief executive officer at Syrrx, Inc. (acquired by Takeda), senior vice president of worldwide pharmaceutical sciences, technologies and development at Parke-Davis/Warner Lambert, and held multiple positions at Upjohn Pharmaceuticals. He has led or participated in the research and development of more than 60 INDs, 10 NDAs and 10 marketed products, including Lipitor®, Neurontin®, Lyrica®, Cognex®, and Cerebyx®. He earned a B.A. from Hope College and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford University.

Doug Williams, Ph.D.

Dr. Williams is executive vice president, R&D at Biogen Idec. Previously, he was chief executive officer at ZymoGenetics Inc (acquired by BMS), chief scientific officer at Seattle Genetics, and senior vice president and Washington site leader at Amgen. Prior to these roles, he served on the faculty of the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the Roswell Park Memorial Institute in Buffalo, New York. Dr. Williams led the development efforts for Leukine®, Enbrel®, and RECOTHROM®. He earned a B.S. in biological sciences from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and a Ph.D. in physiology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute Division.

About Physiocrines

Physiocrines are a new class of extracellular proteins that modulate signaling pathways in a variety of physiological processes. Physiocrines are derived from tRNA synthetases, which function intracellularly, and thus were overlooked by genomic discovery efforts. These endogenous human proteins have a broad range of activities and act through a variety of receptor classes, via mechanisms distinct from current pharmaceuticals, and have applications relevant to a number of therapeutic areas ranging from immunology and hematology to metabolism disorders.

About aTyr Pharma

aTyr Pharma develops biologic therapeutics based on Physiocrines and is currently focusing on developing products to improve patient care in immune, metabolic, and hematologic indications. aTyr has established a dominant intellectual property estate surrounding Physiocrine based compositions and therapeutic applications. The company's leading program, Tmax, is in preclinical development. The privately held biotech was founded by Dr. Paul Schimmel, a leading aminoacyl tRNA synthetase scientist, and backed by leading life sciences investors Alta Partners, Cardinal Partners, Domain Associates and Polaris Ventures. For more information please visit

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