R&D chief at pharmaceuticals firm to discuss drug development

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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