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Archive for Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Deciphera CEO plans to grow company in both Lawrence and Boston

April 10, 2014

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A $6 million check and a new president and CEO have signaled a new round of growth for promising Lawrence bioscience company Deciphera Pharmaceuticals.

But Lawrence leaders should expect at least some of that growth to occur in Boston's busy bioscience hub.

Deciphera has announced that it recently received a $6 million payment from pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, as a cancer-fighting drug developed by the two companies has reached phase one clinical trials.

Deciphera also has hired Mike Taylor, a veteran of the bioscience deal-making industry, to serve as its new president and CEO. As part of that move, the company announced it is opening corporate offices in Boston, where Taylor will be based and where the bioscience industry is thriving. The company's research team, which is based in downtown Lawrence, will remain in Lawrence.

"My intention is to grow Deciphera, and to do it in Lawrence and Boston," said Taylor, who previously was CEO of Ensemble Therapeutics, where he brokered research alliances with Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer and other major pharmaceutical companies.

Dan Flynn, the founder of Deciphera, remains with the company, but has given up his title of president and CEO. He now serves as chief scientific officer, and continues to serve as a member of the company's board of managers. He remains based in Lawrence with the research operations.

Flynn said the transition is another sign that the company is focusing on bringing a handful of drug candidates to market rather than casting a big net to potentially find many drugs.

"We have a wealth of assets in our pipeline that now need to be developed clinically," Flynn said. "We now have need for expertise on the senior management team regarding investor relationships, commercialization strategies and strategic partnerships."

The company currently has three drugs in phase one clinical trials. Flynn describes the clinical trials as the "gauntlet" that really puts a drug candidate to the test, but the company is estimating it could have an approved drug on the marketplace in five years, if testing continues to go well.

Part of the timeline will be determined by money. Taylor has been tasked with finding additional investors for Deciphera.

But both Taylor and Flynn said they are not anticipating that new investors will pressure Deciphera to move its research operations to more traditional bioscience hubs.

"There is really no reason to move research out of Lawrence, as far as I am concerned," Taylor said. "We have great people and our operations have been extremely productive."

Deciphera has a Lawrence workforce of 16, with a mix of company employees and contractors. That's down from about 32 in 2012, which is when the company began its transition to focus on a handful of drugs rather than conducting broad-based research.

Flynn, who founded the company in 2003, said the next several years for the company should be exciting ones.

"This is what I wished for," Flynn said. "It is one thing to come up with an idea, and it is another to actually see the idea work. What is special now is that we can maturate that into actual treatment for cancer patients."

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