SAN DIEGO, Nov. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Ambit Biosciences Inc. today announced the appointment of Michael A. Martino as President, Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors. Martino brings to Ambit a nearly 30-year track record in leading privately held and publicly traded life sciences companies through late-stage clinical development, fundraising, commercial and business development activities, including new product launches and mergers and acquisitions. He replaces Alan Lewis, Ph.D., who announced his departure earlier this year and recently left the company after supporting the transition to Martino's appointment.
"We are pleased that Mike, having completed diligence sees what we see: a promising lead drug candidate, quizartinib, with compelling interim data in a high medical need population and valuable earlier-stage assets that together make up an impressive pipeline," said Faheem Hasnain, Ambit's Chairman. "Mike is joining a talented and committed Ambit team that has successfully moved three drug candidates into the clinic, any one of which could be a lead drug in an earlier stage company, and discovered several promising preclinical compounds. Mike will provide the necessary experience and leadership to drive quizartinib through the approval process and prioritize and focus development of the pipeline."
Martino said, "I am pleased to join Ambit and continue the development of its rich pipeline of early and late-stage programs. There is tremendous promise in quizartinib where the interim Phase 2 data suggest durable leukemic control in relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia patients with FLT3-ITD mutations who otherwise have very limited treatment options available. I also look forward to focusing and leading the development of our earlier clinical stage assets, AC430 and AC480, which are targeted at large patient populations with unmet needs."
From 1999 to 2008, Martino served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Sonus Pharmaceuticals Inc., a publicly traded cancer therapeutics company. During his tenure, he refocused the company on oncology drug development, and oversaw development of the company's lead cancer therapeutic through a pivotal Phase 3 trial conducted under a special protocol assessment. In addition, he played an integral role in establishing and managing collaborations with partners, raising capital from public markets and ultimately completing a reverse merger with Oncogenex Pharmaceuticals Inc.
In 2009, Martino joined with the cofounders of Arzeda Corp., a privately held company focused on enzyme design and development using technology licensed from the University of Washington. During his tenure as the company's first CEO, he oversaw the company's start-up and fundraising activities, both through private investment and collaborations. In 2010, Martino joined CareFusion Corporation and held multiple positions including Senior Vice President and General Manager of diagnostics and Senior Vice President of Innovation, Business Development and Strategy. Earlier in his career, he held multiple positions during a 17-year tenure at Mallinckrodt in strategic planning, business development, marketing, and general management, where he completed multiple acquisitions and licensing agreements and led a major restructuring of the company.
Martino received an M.B.A. from Virginia Tech and a bachelor's degree from Roanoke College. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Arzeda Corp.
Quizartinib, formerly known as AC220, is being developed in collaboration between Ambit Biosciences and Astellas Pharma Inc. and is a novel, potent, highly selective, orally bioavailable FMS-like tyrosine kinase-3 (FLT3) inhibitor. Quizartinib is currently under evaluation in a Phase 2 clinical trial as mono-therapy treatment for adult and elderly patients with relapsed/refractory AML that have an internal tandem duplication (ITD) mutation in the FLT3 gene. Interim data from the first two patient cohorts demonstrated a composite complete response rate in 45 percent of patients, a median duration of response of 12.1 weeks, and survival of 24.7 weeks. No treatment-related deaths have been reported. The most common treatment-related adverse events included nausea, vomiting, fatigue and febrile neutropenia. Several cases of QTc prolongation were reported in the study, but most resolved following a dose adjustment. AML is one of the most common types of blood cancers in adults, with ITD mutations in the FLT3 gene occurring in 25 percent to 30 percent of AML patients. FLT3 ITD mutations confer poor prognosis, with early relapse and lower survival following treatment with existing therapies, including chemotherapy and hematopoietic stem cell transplant.
About Ambit Biosciences
Ambit Biosciences is a privately held biopharmaceutical company engaged in the development of a robust pipeline of small molecule kinase inhibitors for the treatment of cancer, inflammatory disease and other indications. Ambit's lead compound, quizartinib (AC220), is a novel, potent, highly selective, orally bioavailable FMS-like tyrosine kinase-3 (FLT3) inhibitor, and is currently under clinical investigation in patients with relapsed or refractory AML. Ambit is developing quizartinib in collaboration with Astellas Pharma Inc. as part of a worldwide agreement to jointly develop and commercialize FLT3 kinase inhibitors in oncology and non-oncology indications. In addition to quizartinib, Ambit's clinical pipeline includes AC430, an oral JAK2 inhibitor, and AC480, a pan-HER inhibitor. Ambit also has a preclinical candidate, CEP-32496, a BRAF inhibitor licensed to Cephalon. For more information, visit www.ambitbio.com.
SOURCE Ambit Biosciences Inc.