Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals Appoints Travis Wager as Vice President of Research

Former Pfizer research lead to drive development of Aquinnah’s neurodegenerative therapeutic development programs

 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — May 15, 2018 Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals, leaders in stress granule biology, an exciting new approach in the development of neurodegenerative therapeutics for ALS and Alzheimer’s diseases, today announced the appointment of Travis T. Wager, Ph.D., as Vice President of Research. Dr. Wager brings almost 20 years of leadership experience driving neuroscience research and drug discovery programs at Pfizer. Dr. Wager will oversee all discovery biology and chemistry activities for Aquinnah’s growing pipeline of neurodegenerative therapeutics.

“We are very excited to welcome Travis to our growing team,” said Glenn Larsen, Ph.D., Co-founder, President and CEO of Aquinnah. “His leadership and experience at Pfizer, where he helped advance eight neuroscience programs to clinical development, and his deep and extensive research and development experience will be invaluable as we advance our therapeutic programs targeting stress granules in both ALS, tau biology in Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

Prior to joining Aquinnah, Dr. Wager held various leadership positions at Pfizer including Project Leader for Neuroscience and Head of small molecule design for the Neuroscience and Pain Research Unit. Dr. Wager is an internationally recognized expert in the field of brain-penetrant small molecule design. His seminal contributions to the understanding of physicochemical properties and the development of the CNS MPO desirability tool has enabled drug discovery design across the industry. He has been published extensively in ACS Chemical Neuroscience and Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, authored nearly 40 scientific papers and holds over 30 patents. While at Pfizer, Dr. Wager’s eight small molecule programs advanced to clinical development candidates, including the first kinase inhibitor for a CNS indication. Beyond developing new medicines targeting Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Wager has developed compounds to treat Schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and allergic rhinitis. He has received numerous awards including the W.E. Upjohn Award from Pfizer, the Cheves T. Walling Award from University of Utah and is also a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for ACS Chemical Neuroscience. Dr. Wager obtained a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Utah with Professor G. E. Keck, where he also conducted his postdoctoral research.

“The field of neurodegenerative diseases is vast and includes a number of conditions with high, unmet medical needs, such as ALS and Alzheimer’s, where I have dedicated my education and career,” said Dr. Wager. “I look forward to leading the research and development team at Aquinnah and advancing our first-in-class medicines to accomplish Aquinnah’s mission to provide life-changing impact for patients around the world.”

About Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals

Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals is harnessing the power of stress granule biology to develop a new class of drug candidates with the potential to prevent and possibly reverse the pathology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as Alzheimer’s disease. Aquinnah is financially backed by Pfizer, Inc., Abbvie, Inc. and Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

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Company Contact
Glenn Larsen, President & CEO
Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals
news@aquinnah.com
617-250-8157

Media Contact
George MacDougall
MacDougall Biomedical Communications
gmacdougall@macbiocom.com
781-235-3060

LabCentral to Open Next-Stage Facility for Growing Life Science Companies, Supported by Pfizer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (September 21, 2017) – LabCentral and Pfizer today announced plans to open LabCentral 610, a new LabCentral offering located at Pfizer’s Kendall Square Worldwide Research and Development campus. The 33,000-square-foot facility is slated to open in December and will house up to six early- to mid-stage companies. Eligible startups include those with high-impact science, excellent execution, and significant prospects for achieving scientific and business success whose space needs exceed current LabCentral offerings. The companies may be ‘graduates’ from the current LabCentral space, or those interested in securing space in the thriving bioscience Kendall Square neighborhood.

A joint steering committee made up of representatives from LabCentral and Pfizer evaluate potential companies. Three local biotechs have been accepted: Affinivax, EnBiotix, and Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals. Companies interested in applying can learn more here on LabCentral’s website.

“As our resident startups have met their scientific milestones quickly and efficiently, they’ve thrived and grown – often citing LabCentral’s support and coworking model as a key factor,” said LabCentral Cofounder and President Johannes Fruehauf, M.D., Ph.D.”

LabCentral developed the LabCentral 610 site in response to requests from resident startups outgrowing or “aging out” of its original facility who want to remain within LabCentral’s supportive environment as they continue on in their next stage of development. (LabCentral policies limit the length of time resident companies can stay in order to make room for a steady stream of cutting-edge startups.)

Fruehauf continued, “Of course, we’re a startup too, and like our resident companies, reap the benefits of working within our own creative shared work environment. Since the beginning, we have been in a constant dialogue with our residents, sponsors, and the larger biotech stakeholder community to adjust, adapt, and fine-tune our model and service offerings to meet the current and future need. This project is a direct result of that process. We’re enormously grateful to have Pfizer support us in this pursuit.”

Pfizer’s Chief Scientific Officer of Internal Medicine Morrie Birnbaum, M.D., Ph.D. commented, “Pfizer is proud to add LabCentral 610 to our growing Kendall Square Worldwide Research and Development campus. Collaborating with leaders such as LabCentral to foster scientific exchange and grow the next generation of biotechs is core to our mission, and it’s a testament to the strength of the area’s biomedical ecosystem to see these types of collaborations develop.” Dr. Birnbaum serves on the LabCentral 610 joint selection committee and is also the Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development site’s senior scientific director.

More about the space and founding tenant companies

The facility features six private lab suites and can accommodate companies ranging in size from 20 to 40 people. Common space includes: six conference rooms; four phone booth/huddle rooms; a dedicated mother’s room and nap room; a kitchen/café; and a “living room” (the corollary to the “playroom” in LabCentral’s original 700 Main Street location).

Three of the six companies have already been selected:

Affinivax

Affinivax is developing a pipeline of next-generation vaccines, based on its proprietary technology platform, the Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPS), which induces both a B-cell and T-cell immune response, providing for much broader protection against the most-invasive pathogens.

Affinivax President and CEO Steven Brugger commented, “When we moved into LabCentral in June of 2014, we were
a spinout from Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) with seed funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Today, we are 30 people strong. Working within LabCentral’s vibrant, shared community has been vital to our success to date. LabCentral enabled us to hit the ground running. We accelerated the tech transfer of the MAPS technology from BCH, we built a great team, secured key partnerships, and are now advancing two novel vaccines towards clinical trials. Because of the energy level and network of talent that the LabCentral community offers, our work is often fueled and inspired by the amazing work going on around us.”

EnBiotix

EnBiotix is a product-focused bioengineering company using synthetic-biology platforms to transform and revitalize existing antibiotic classes to combat the global rise of drug-resistant bacterial infections.

EnBiotix Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO Jeffrey Wager, M.D., said, “We are excited to make the move next door to LabCentral 610. We did look for other space, but it’s difficult to find anything that’s appropriately sized for us at this stage of our development. We’re still fairly small today. But we’re growing. We don’t want to get locked into a long- term lease on something that’s ‘just right’ for now. However, we can’t afford to waste precious resources on space we don’t need. At LabCentral, we’ll have flexibility, world-class infrastructure, equipment, and service − plus, zero downtime when we move. And the staff is incredible − we know we’ll be up-and-running doing science right away.”

Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals

Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals is focused on drug candidates with the potential to prevent and possibly reverse the formation of pathological stress granules, believed to be important in the pathology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

Aquinnah’s President and CEO Glenn Larsen, Ph.D. commented, “Our tenure at LabCentral has been extremely productive due to the superb LabCentral infrastructure, management, and operations teams. This facilitated our ability to focus on drug discovery and development and helped us achieve $15 million in investment from major pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer. We are honored to be accepted as an inaugural member of LabCentral 610. Our move to this larger state-of-the-art laboratory will allow continued growth and an acceleration of our research and development. Without LabCentral’s catalytic support, informative programming, and the energetic environment of other innovative technology companies, we would not have advanced our technology as quickly as we have.” Dr. Larsen added, “We expect to file an IND for ALS in 2018, and will continue to advance our new Alzheimer’s tauopathy programs.”

About LabCentral (www.labcentral.org; twitter @labcentral)
LabCentral is a first-of-its-kind shared laboratory workspace in the heart of the Kendall Square, Cambridge, biotech innovation hub. Designed as a launchpad for high-potential life-sciences and biotech startups, it offers everything startups need to begin laboratory operations on day one and move their science forward faster and more cost- efficiently. This includes: fully permitted laboratory and office space, first-class facility and administrative support, skilled laboratory personnel, a domain-relevant expert speaker series ‒ as well as the other critical services and support. A private, nonprofit institution, LabCentral’s first site opened in 2013, thanks to a capital grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, with support from its real-estate partner, MIT. Founding sponsors include Triumvirate Environmental and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. To accommodate demand for its growing startups, LabCentral, with support from Pfizer, Inc., plans to open LabCentral 610 in December 2017. In 2018, LabCentral will have capacity to serve a total of ~450 scientists and entrepreneurs in about 66 companies across its two-building campus.

About Pfizer: Working together for a healthier world®

At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to bring therapies to people that extend and significantly improve their lives. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacture of health care products. Our global portfolio includes medicines and vaccines as well as many of the world's best-known consumer health care products. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as one of the world's premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, we collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, we have worked to make a difference for all who rely on us. We routinely post information that may be important to investors on our website at www.pfizer.com. In addition, to learn more, please visit us on www.pfizer.com and follow us on Twitter at @Pfizer and @Pfizer_News, LinkedIn, YouTube and like us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Pfizer.

Contacts:

For LabCentral
Caroline Grossman
(781) 771-.5579 cgrossman@labcentral.org

For Pfizer
Samantha Reardon
(212) 733-1461 Samantha.Reardon@pfizer.com 

Aquinnah Featured in LabCentral Press Release

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. and SAN DIEGO, Calif. – June 20, 2016 – LabCentral, Greater Boston’s premier coworking laboratory launchpad for high-potential life-science startups, announced that it is accepting applications from early-stage companies, creating some of the most-important breakthroughs in human health. Once completed, the second-floor expansion of its historic Kendall Square facility will add 42,000 square feet of shared lab and office space, eight more private labs suites, and will double the number of resident companies served to as many as 60 at a time. A $5 million capital grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) helped fund build-out of the new space. That is in addition to the MLSC’s initial capital grant of approximately $5 million in 2013, which established it as one of LabCentral’s founding sponsors.

LabCentral Cofounder and President Johannes Fruehauf, M.D., Ph.D., announced LabCentral’s expansion and call for applications at Bio 2017, which opened today in San Diego.

“It’s exciting to add the upstairs floors of this historic building to our facility and build them out as beautiful and functional coworking lab, office, and play space − designed to inspire the kind of creative communication and collaboration among scientists, entrepreneurs, and the larger biotech community − that helps drive science forward faster,” said Dr. Fruehauf. “While work on the entire facility won’t be done until later this summer, we were pleased to complete one of the upstairs labs early. That way, we could accommodate Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals’ need for a larger private lab suite to accommodate its employee growth needs, as it works toward its important goal of developing drug candidates to treat patients with ALS, Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

Aquinnah’s path is typical for many of the resident startups at LabCentral, which has become the model for life- science coworking facilities worldwide. Aquinnah’s President and CEO Glenn Larsen, Ph.D., explained the benefits of operating in LabCentral’s fully equipped and supportive environment when you’re first starting out versus trying to establish stand-alone facilities.

“LabCentral is exceptional and just fabulous in my view, providing emerging companies the chance to start in ways never imagined or possible before. It provides significant flexibility and cost savings for young companies like ours because we don’t have to invest heavily in our own lab equipment and operating facilities or overhead expenses early on. Instead, we can focus totally on our research and on meeting critical milestones as we move from the lab toward the clinic and closer to our end goal of changing the health trajectory of people’s lives.”

When Aquinnah joined in the fall of 2014, it began with one bench in the open lab, adding scientists and lab benches as it raised additional funds and achieved appropriate scientific and business targets. Since then, it has raised $16.5 million, including from LabCentral Platinum sponsor Pfizer and the MLSC, enabling the company to recruit the many talented scientists working in its new LabCentral laboratory suite today.

“The Commonwealth’s early investment in LabCentral has directly caused follow-on investments throughout the Massachusetts economy, helping to create hundreds of new biotech jobs and attracting extraordinary private sector investment,” said MLSC President and CEO Travis McCready. “We are excited to play a role in LabCentral’s expansion as it continues its catalytic effect on early-stage biopharma entrepreneurship and helps cement the Commonwealth’s leadership position as the world leader in the life sciences.”

LabCentral’s application process starts with a short form on its website. Following submission, there may be a telephone consultation with a LabCentral team member to help determine if the applicant meets the requirements for residency. Those chosen to go on to the next step will present their company to the LabCentral selection committee, which reviews applications and interviews company leadership to assure that they meet the standards for high-impact science, promising execution, and fit. Startups must also show a willingness and capacity to operate within the LabCentral shared community.

About LabCentral (www.labcentral.org; twitter @labcentral)

A 70,000 square-foot facility in the heart of the Kendall Square, Cambridge, biotech innovation hub, LabCentral is a first-of-its-kind shared laboratory space designed as a launchpad for high-potential life-sciences and biotech startups. It offers fully permitted laboratory and office space for early-stage companies that can serve approximately 300 scientists and entrepreneurs. LabCentral provides first-class facility and administrative support, skilled laboratory personnel, a domain-relevant expert speaker series ‒ as well as the other critical services and support that startups need to begin laboratory operations on day one. A private, nonprofit institution, LabCentral was funded in part by two $5 million capital grants from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, with support from its real-estate partner, MIT. Founding sponsors include Triumvirate Environmental and Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (www.masslifesciences.com; twitter: @MALifeSciences)

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is an investment agency that supports life sciences innovation, education, research & development and commercialization. The MLSC is charged with implementing a $1-billion, state-funded investment initiative. These investments create jobs and support advances that improve health and well-being. The MLSC offers the nation’s most comprehensive set of incentives and collaborative programs targeted to the life sciences ecosystem. These programs propel the growth that has made Massachusetts the global leader in life sciences. The MLSC creates new models for collaboration and partners with organizations, both public and private, around the world to promote innovation in the life sciences.