James P. Panek, an independent consultant since 2011, providing technical and strategic insights to companies around the world, has joined Sutro Biopharma’s Board of Directors as a Senior Advisor.

Panek, who previous held leadership positions at VaxGen, a company that developed vaccines for infectious diseases, adds more than 40 years of experience in the biotech and pharmaceutical to Sutro’s board. He also served as Co-CEO and Chairman of its international joint venture, Celltrion.

In 2007, Panek was appointed Chief Executive Officer at VaxGen. Additionally, Panek held several leadership positions during his 18-year tenure at Genentech, most recently as the Senior Vice President of Product Operations, where he led the development and operation of Genentech’s manufacturing facilities.

Cell-free expression technology
Sutro Biopharma is a clinical-stage drug discovery, development and manufacturing company focused on the application of precise protein engineering and rational design to create next-generation oncology therapeutics, including the next-generation of antibody-drug conjugates or ADCs, using the company’s proprietary cell-free expression technology.

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This technology is a rapid and powerful platform for the discovery and development of antibody-drug conjugates. While current ADCs in development have immense promise, but they are limited by the fact that they are structurally heterogeneous populations in which the position and number of conjugated linkers and payloads vary significantly.

This heterogeneity prevents the definition of structure-activity relationships (SARs). As a result, using traditional ADC technologies prevents researchers from discovering and developing candidates with optimal therapeutic indices and can result in products with unpredictable and sub-optimal pharmacokinetic properties, stability and efficacy.

By incorporating non-natural amino acids (nnAA) at any site in an antibody structure, researchers at Sutro have been albe to develop single-species ADCs with site-specific conjugation of linker and payload. One of the unique features of the technology used by Sutro, is that the company’s process allows for a rapid and parallel synthesis of numerous variants taking advantage of a substantial number of different sites. This enables analyses early in discovery to define SARs and locate the best positions for non-natural amino acids.

Research has shown that the cell-killing effects of ADCs are highly dependent on the location of the cytotoxic payload as well as the drug-to-antibody ratio (DAR). The technology developed by Sutro can control both variables with exquisite specificity, resulting in truly optimized product candidates.

The company has also addressed the challenge of manufacturing nnAA-containing ADCs by engineering additional versions of cell-free extract that achieve high rates of incorporation of nnAAs and by developing chemistries that allow for efficient conjugation of linkers and payloads to antibodies.

Operational excellence
Commenting on Panek joining the Sutro board, Bill Newell, Sutro’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Jim has a track record of operational excellence and corporate leadership that will be an asset to Sutro’s Board.

“As Sutro continues to evolve, we are always looking to complement the team and the addition of Jim will help us deliver innovative products to improve outcomes for cancer patients,” Newell added.

“I believe in the vision for Sutro’s XpressCF+™ platform and its potential to enable rapid discovery of important new cancer therapies and bring them to the clinic,” said Panek.

“Sutro has made remarkable progress with a robust pipeline of oncology therapeutic candidates. As a board member, I will be working with the Sutro leadership team to advance STRO-001 and STRO-002 antibody-drug conjugates through clinical trials with the goal of transforming lives of cancer patients by developing safer, more effective therapies,” he concluded.

In addition two antibody-drug conjugates being independently developed, Sutro is also working with partners, including EMD Serono and Bristol-Meyers Squibb (Celgene) to develop novel cancer therapies.

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