KHEPRI’s NEUTRAL ENDOPEPTIDASE (NEP) FOR SMALL-CELL LUNG CANCER
KHEPRI's NEUTRAL ENDOPEPTIDASE (NEP) FOR SMALL-CELL LUNG CANCER is the firm's lead product candidate. Alameda, Calif.-based Khepri Pharmaceuticals intends to file an IND on the recombinant version of neutral endopeptidase (NEP), a principle enzyme involved in inflammation, by the summer of 1994. NEP has been shown to deactivate selectively peptides that amplify inflammatory, vasoactive and proliferation-enhancing cellular processes, the company said. Preclinical testing is also concluding on the use of NEP in combating migraines; Khepri describes the drug as "more potent than sumatriptan," (Glaxo's Imitrex), which is just now entering the U.S. market. Khepri is studying NEP's effects on bronchial asthma in preclinicals as well. The R&D start-up is also investigating the anti-inflammatory properties of interleukin-8. Khepri's development focus is to create protease-based therapeutics with improved half-lives, specificity, targetability, mode of action and ease of delivery. The company, which takes its name from an early Egyptian god of creation and enlightenment, was founded in September 1992 by David Estell, who previously held positions at Genencor International -- where he led the protein engineering effort -- and Genentech, and Donald Payan, who previously served on the University of California at San Francisco faculty and was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Genentech has taken an 8% equity position in the firm but holds no positions on its board. Initial funding of $4 mil. was provided by the venture capital firms of Brentwood Associates, Sierra Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and the Mayfield Fund. Khepri has 13 employees. Ronald Henriksen was appointed in April as president and CEO of Khepri. Henriksen, 53, joins Khepri after 21 years at Lilly, where he served in a variety of U.S. and international positions, including director of business development and director of finance. Khepri highlights Henriksen's experience with emerging technologies. Henriksen spent his last 10 years at Lilly "identifying new life sciences technology; negotiating research and development agreements, strategic alliances and equity transactions with biotechnology companies; and monitoring the scientific and business relationships between Lilly and its alliance partners," the company said. Khepri recently signed a three-year research agreement with the Scripps Research Institute for "another protease of medical interest."
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