Little Deciphera raises its cancer R&D flag in Boston's bustling biotech hub

It's not often you find a little biotech company plugging away at new cancer drugs in out-of-the-way places like Lawrence, KS. But that's just what Deciphera Pharmaceuticals has been doing. And today the biotech is making a move to a bigger stage, hiring biotech vet Mike Taylor to take up the CEO's job in Boston, tasked with building a small HQ team and start executing deals as the company heralds the arrival of a $6 million milestone from its Big Pharma partner Eli Lilly ($LLY).

"Deciphera has a wealth of opportunities in its pipeline," says Taylor, who parted ways with Ensemble Therapeutics after forging a long lineup of marquee deals with Roche ($RHHBY), Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), Pfizer ($PFE), Genentech, Boehringer Ingelheim ($BIIB), Alexion ($ALXN), and Novartis ($NVS). Now he's looking for a handful of execs to join him in the big Boston hub to pursue pacts on a half-dozen prospects at Deciphera, including three which are in the clinic. Dan Flynn, who founded the company, will stay in charge of the research work, located close to the campus at KU.

Deciphera has been developing kinase inhibitors, small molecules that can shut down cancer signaling to prevent metastasis. Its drugs range from Rebastinib, a TIE2 kinase inhibitor now in Phase I, to DCC-2701, a triple-threat MET/TIE2/VEGFR2 kinase inhibitor also in Phase I, and LY3009120 (DP-4978), a pan-RAF inhibitor which Lilly finally advanced into the clinic after licensing the technology in a $130 million deal back in 2008. The preclinical assets include DCC-2618, a pan-KIT inhibitor.

Aside from the Lilly cash, which includes an earlier payment of a $6 million milestone, Flynn says he's been financing the company with unnamed high-net-worth investors. Taylor, who had worked earlier as an SVP in Pfizer's R&D organization, will also be looking for new investors to back the company.

Like a lot of small biotechs, Deciphera relies on a group of consultants to do much of its work, with a full-time staff of 10 on the payroll. 

- here's the release on Mike Taylor's hire
- here's the release on Lilly's $6M payoff