TP brings on Adverum’s ex-CMO following launch of first-in-human study

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Countouriotis recently resigned from Adverum after 11 months as CMO. TP hopes its lead product will overcome the drug resistance seen with other precision cancer therapies. (Pixabay)

Following a short stint at Adverum Biotechnologies, Athena Countouriotis, M.D., has joined TP Therapeutics as executive VP and chief medical officer, as the company prepares to unveil first-in-human study data for its lead cancer therapy and expand its pipeline.

TP is developing ropotrectinib (TPX-0005) to target solid tumors with ALK, ROS or NTRK genetic mutations. The San Diego-based company hopes it will overcome the treatment resistance seen with other precision cancer therapies.

Countouriotis recently resigned from Adverum after 11 months as CMO. There she helped launch a phase 1/2 trial late last year of ADVM-043 in patients with A1AT deficiency, an inherited disease that can cause lung and liver disease. The Menlo Park, California-based startup also saw its CEO, Amber Salzman, step down.

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“Athena has a history of success in oncology drug development, including the kinase inhibitor area which TP focuses on, and we are thrilled that she is joining us,” said Carl Gordon, member of TP’s board of directors and partner at OrbiMed Advisors, in a statement. Countouriotis previously held roles at Halozyme Therapeutics, Ambit Biosciences, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer.

TP was founded in 2013 by oncology drug designer J. Jean Cui, who helped invent Pfizer’s Xalkori (crizotinib) treatment for ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer. Now, as president and chief scientific officer of TP, Cui is developing oral ropotrectinib to overcome crizotinib-resistant ROS1 mutations in NSCLC.

Ropotrectinib has a much smaller physical structure compared to other ROS1 inhibitors, allowing it to bypass various resistance mechanisms seen in refractory patients, the company said in a poster (PDF) presented at the 2017 AACR-NCI-EORTC conference in Philadelphia. Early data from the company’s phase 1/2 dosing study are expected to be presented at an upcoming conference.