CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Zafgen, Inc., a pharmaceutical company pioneering novel obesity therapeutics to help the body regain and sustain a lean, healthy state by targeting imbalances in fat metabolism, today announced that Frances K. Heller has joined the company’s board of directors. Ms. Heller brings to Zafgen nearly 20 years of experience in pharmaceutical and biotechnology business development, licensing and legal affairs.
“Fran is a seasoned industry executive with unparalleled business development expertise, having led some of the industry’s most innovative and successful deals,” said Thomas Hughes, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer, Zafgen, Inc. “Her proven leadership will be invaluable as we progress into Phase 2 clinical trials and continue to execute our business strategy.”
During her career, Ms. Heller has led a large volume of strategic transactions and partnerships across a broad range of molecular modalities and in various therapeutic areas. Previously, Ms. Heller was executive vice president of business development at Exelixis Pharmaceuticals, where she was successful in negotiating multiple partnerships and securing more than $500 million in guaranteed revenue. Under her leadership, Exelixis was the recipient of the Deal of the Year Award by Allicense & Deloitte Recap in 2009 and 2010. Prior to joining Exelixis, Ms. Heller was head of strategic alliances at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, where she was responsible for transactions with partners in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, as well as academic institutions worldwide. Ms. Heller is an instructor and guest lecturer at several universities as an expert in the business of strategy setting, deal making and negotiation, and is teaching a course at Stanford University this fall titled “The Pharmaceutical Industry: Understanding Innovation & Business Challenges.” She is currently a board member of Adimab, LLC, the Tulane School of Science and Engineering at Tulane University, the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation, and the biotechnology industrial advisory board and steering committee at Northeastern University. Ms. Heller is a member of the California State Bar and licensed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. She holds a B.S. in biology from Tulane University, an M.A. in biology from American University and a J.D. from Golden Gate University School of Law.
“Zafgen is a unique pharmaceutical company with a truly innovative approach to tackling obesity at its root cause,” said Ms. Heller. “I am honored to join the exceptional team at Zafgen as the company reaches its goal of bringing its promising lead molecule, beloranib, to the market for severely obese patients.”
About MetAP2 Inhibition and Beloranib
MetAP2 inhibitor treatment has emerged as a new peripheral mechanism driving rapid and substantial weight loss and improvements in cardio metabolic risk factors. MetAP2 inhibitors have the potential to be the first new class of obesity therapeutics to provide the severely obese population with significant weight loss efficacy. Zafgen’s lead molecule is being developed as a twice-weekly subcutaneous injection for severe obesity. The company expects to enter Phase 2 trials in obese patients and obese diabetic patients in early 2012. Zafgen is also developing new compounds suitable for oral administration for use in broader indications as part of its second generation program. Beloranib hemioxalate was initially developed by CKD Pharmaceuticals. The molecule was originally profiled for efficacy in the treatment of solid tumors.
Obesity continues to be one of the world’s most costly and underserved growing medical conditions. It is a complex condition with numerous causes, many of which are largely beyond an individual’s control1. There exists a tremendous unmet medical need for effective drug therapies to treat this serious disease, which has reached epidemic proportions and is increasing at an alarming rate. Obesity leads to many serious health consequences. As BMI increases, so does one’s risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and some cancers2. Currently available weight loss treatments function by blocking fat absorption or signalling feelings of fullness or diminished appetite in the brain. These drugs are often associated with undesirable side effects and limited efficacy that fails to provide sustainable weight loss in many patients.
According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans are making no progress in the fight against obesity, with a slight increase in obesity rates across all key demographic groups between January 1, 2008 and April 30, 2010. The study found that adult obesity rates did not decrease between 2009 and 2010, with the rate of obesity remaining stable at 26.7 percent in the first quarter of 2010, compared to 26.2 percent in the last quarter of 2009, and that fewer Americans are maintaining a “normal” weight as measured by BMI3.
About Zafgen, Inc.
Zafgen is pioneering novel obesity therapeutics that directly target fat metabolism to help the body regain and sustain a lean, healthy state. The company’s approach focuses on restoring control of key metabolic processes, releasing stored fat which then is used by the body as fuel. Zafgen’s first generation product, beloranib, is being studied for use as a pharmacological alternative to bariatric surgery in the treatment of severe obesity. Zafgen's leadership and scientific advisors include leading experts in obesity, metabolic disorders and medicinal chemistry. Founded in 2005, the company is located in Cambridge, Mass. For more information, visit www.zafgen.com.
1OBESITY, Volume 16, Number 6, June, 2008;http://www.obesity.org/images/pdf/Publications/TOS%20OBY_disease_05_19_08.pdf
2World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/index.html
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KEYWORDS: United States North America Massachusetts
INDUSTRY KEYWORDS: Health Biotechnology Fitness & Nutrition Pharmaceutical