R&D chief at pharmaceuticals firm to discuss drug development

Chemist Steven Kates '83

Steven Kates ’83, vice president of research and development for the Massachusetts pharmaceuticals company Ischemix, visits Bates to offer the presentation Ischemix: Discovery and Development at 4:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8, in Room 204 of Carnegie Science Hall, 44 Campus Ave.

Open to the public at no cost, the presentation is sponsored by the chemistry department. For more information, please call 207-786-6294.

Kates is leading Ischemix’s development of CMX-2043, a drug now in the final stages of testing that is designed to reduce damage to heart tissue that can occur when normal blood flow is restored after a blockage.

“People don’t realize how many failures there are in this process, and the costs involved in bringing a drug to market,” Kates says. Developing a new drug takes enormous amounts of money and time — it can take 10 years to bring a single drug to market, and estimates of cost range from 100 million to a billion dollars.

Kates likens the process of developing a therapeutic drug to building a house. “So many disciplines are involved. You need guys who pour the foundation, plumbers, painters, carpenters.

“Bringing a drug to the field initially requires hard-core chemists and biologists. Then there is work in toxicology and in regulatory issues. Then you start dealing with the physicians and biostatisticians. It’s a plethora of highly skilled people.”

But outcomes in the pharmaceuticals industry are much less certain than in construction. There is no guarantee that a drug candidate will win Food and Drug Administration approval. In 2004, just 8 percent of compounds entering clinical trials were ultimately deemed safe and useful enough by the FDA to be approved for sale.

Kates has been working on CMX-2043 for six years. A leading chemist and industry expert in peptide design and manufacture, Kates joined Maynard-based Ischemix in October 2003, bringing more than 15 years’ experience in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

He previously served as senior scientist at Surface Logix Inc., a drug development company specializing in the chemical improvement of already-approved drugs and late-stage compounds.

Kates majored in chemistry at Bates and earned a doctorate in synthetic organic chemistry from Brandeis University. He has written or co-authored more than 100 articles, reviews and patents, and is a visiting professor of chemistry at Brandeis.

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