TriSalus hires Katz to run studies of ex-Dynavax cancer drug

TriSalus Life Sciences CMO Steven Katz, M.D. (Business Wire)

TriSalus Life Sciences has named Steven Katz, M.D., as its chief medical officer. The appointment gives Katz the chance to apply his experience as clinical investigator on solid tumor clinical trials to a pipeline led by TLR9 agonist SD-101.

Colorado-based TriSalus is using a delivery technology to get immuno-oncology agents to targets in solid tumors. The technology enables surgeons to deliver drugs to liver metastases and pancreatic solid tumors during interventional arterial and venous outpatient procedures, bypassing barriers in the tumor microenvironment that diminish the efficacy of immuno-oncology agents.

Katz has supported development of the technology as chief medical adviser to TriSalus and chairman of its scientific advisory board since 2018. Now, TriSalus has asked Katz to play a bigger role in taking its pipeline forward.

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The appointment of Katz comes weeks after TriSalus bought TLR9 agonist SD-101 from Dynavax for $5 million upfront. Investigators have initiated multiple clinical trials of SD-101 in recent years, but in May 2019 Dynavax decided to cull the asset and the rest of its immuno-oncology pipeline, pivoting to hepatitis B and laying off 82 staff members in the process. 

TriSalus picked up SD-101 last month in a deal that could ultimately cost it $250 million. Work is now underway to assess the effect of administering the TLR9 agonist via hepatic artery infusion using TriSalus’ Pressure-Enabled Drug Delivery technology. The planned trial will deliver SD-101 to the liver in combination with a checkpoint inhibitor.

Dynavax studied SD-101 in humans in combination with checkpoint inhibitors but lacked TriSalus’ delivery system, which could improve the efficacy of the TLR9 agonist by getting into the local vasculature of solid tumors. 

Katz was involved in preclinical studies that assessed the use of the delivery technology to get drugs such as CAR-T cell therapies to the liver. As CMO of TriSalus, Katz will bring that experience to bear on the TLR9 agonist program.

TriSalus has collaborated with Katz in recent years in the context of his work at Roger Williams Medical Center, a university-affiliated teaching hospital in Rhode Island where the surgeon has worked for 11 years. Katz arrived at the medical center after a two-year stint as chief administrative surgical oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 

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