Molineaux turns her attention to start-up Calithera

Susan Molineaux (photo) helped guide cancer drug developer Proteolix from early stage multiple myeloma research through Phase II trials. The developer was snapped up by Onyx Pharmaceuticals, which last year paid $276 million up front for the company, leaving Molineaux free to concentrate on a new project. "I'm a risk taker," Molineaux tells the San Francisco Business Times. "There's probably no super-safe program I've ever been associated with."

The entrepreneur has now turned her attention to South San Francisco-based Calithera Biosciences, which earlier this month landed a $40 million Series A round to ramp up development work on a new group of cancer drugs discovered in the lab of Jim Wells, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry in the University of California, San Francisco School of Pharmacy. Wells was impressed by Proteolix's ability to find the correct dosing, formulation and potency for its cancer drug--a challenge he suspects Calithera will face in its work. Wells' compounds activate procaspases and trigger apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells.

Wells and Chris Christoffersen, managing partner at Morgenthaler Ventures (one of Calithera's VC backers), agreed that Molineaux was the right choice to head up Calithera. They were impressed with her ability to bridge the gap between science and business. During Molineaux's interview for the CEO spot, "we talked serious science and candidly and openly with great strategic clarity about businesses she's been involved with," Christoffersen tells the San Francisco Business Times. "I walked out of the interview saying, 'That's impressive.'"

- here's the San Francisco Business Times article