CELLULAR TRANSPLANTS' NEW CEO IS SETH RUDNICK, MD
CELLULAR TRANSPLANTS' NEW CEO IS SETH RUDNICK, MD, who joins the R&D firm from R. W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute, where he was senior VP responsible for biotechnology development for the J&J research arm. Cellular Transplants, a Providence, Rhode Island-based biotech startup, announced Feb. 5 that Rudnick will assume the top spot in the company from acting CEO Mark Levin. A partner at the Mayfield Fund, Levin will remain as a director of the company. Prior to joining R. W. Johnson, Rudnick was a VP at both Ortho and Biogen. Rudnick coordinated the development of Ortho's Eprex (erythropoietin) for the worldwide market and Procrit (epoetin alfa) indications for the U.S. market. At Biogen, he was instrumental in the development of recombinant gamma interferon and interleukin-2. Founded in 1989 by Brown University, Washington University in St. Louis and the Mayfield Fund, Cellular Transplants specializes in developing immunoisolated living cells for transplant into humans. The company's technology will focus both on developing animal and engineered cell sources, and encapsulation technology. Encapsulation will theoretically prevent rejection of transplants, which are initially targeted at Parkinson's, diabetes, and chronic pain. Cellular Transplants expects its lead product -- encapsulated dopamine secreting cells as a treatment for Parkinson's -- to reach clinical trials sometime in 1992. The company envisions the implantation of a "biological pump" for "long term relief" from Parkinson's. Cellular Transplants will have a pre-IND meeting with FDA in the next month or two, the company said. The company's next product will be insulin secreting cells for diabetics. In April, Washington University announced that it had successfully used a transplant of pancreatic islet cells removed from cadavers to eliminate the need for insulin injections in a patient for two weeks. Cellular Transplants calls the trial a "proof of principle" but says that "unencapsulated islets from [cadavers] would be used only in diabetics who are on chronic immunosuppression." The company's encapsulated xenogeneic (animal) islets are currently being tested in small mammals. For chronic pain, the company's third therapeutic target, Cellular Transplants is looking into cellular implants in the central nervous system and envisions "a tethered macrocapsule containing catecholaminergic cells from xenogeneic or in vitro derived sources." Future disease targets are Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's, and hypoparathyroidism. Cellular Transplants has completed two rounds of private financing. The company raised $ 2.5 mil. in its initial private placement in 1989, and completed an $ 8.1 mil. venture capital financing in January. Rudnick joins an executive team that includes veterans of Baxter and Pfizer and has a total staff numbering 30. VP-Research and Development Michael Lysaght, PhD, was formerly VP of renal therapy research at Baxter. Cellular Transplants' director of endocrine science is Orion Hegre, PhD; its director of neuroscience and scientific affairs is Paul Sanberg, PhD. Both men joined the company from academia: Hegre from the University of Minnesota and Sanberg from the University of Cincinnati. The director of business development is Alfred Vasconcellos. He joined Cellular Transplants from Pfizer, where he was director of the new technology group. Previously, he was at Kendall. The company's corporate mission bears some resemblance to that of Hana Biologicals after its merger with Somatix in November ("The Pink Sheet" Nov. 19, T&G-5). Hana, after initiating research with human fetal cells, switched to animal and cadaver cells and encapsulation research for treatment of diabetes.
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