Trubion is staking its future on what it says is a unique class of medicines called SMIPS (Small Modular ImmunoPharmaceuticals).

And to build that future, Trubion is relying on an executive team that includes Kendall Moler, who directed the science that led to Enbrel, the high-profile drug sold by Amgen Inc., of Thousand Oaks, Calif. Founders of the company, formed in 2002, also include Jeffrey Ledbetter and Martha Hayden Ledbetter and Edward Clark, a professor at the University of Washington, as well as president and CEO, Peter Thompson.

"The group of people represented there fundamentally comprises the core of people that might make sense to bring together in a business of this nature, insofar as we have -in my mind, perhaps - the most productive industrial scientists in biopharmaceuticals in the last two decades," Thompson told BioWorld Today.

The SMIP technology was based on inventions by Thompson and the Ledbetters.

"Both Jeff and Martha have had a long-standing interest in trying to devise ways of improving immunopharmaceuticals," Thompson said.

One of the problems that immunopharmaceuticals - and antibodies in particular, Thompson said - have presented is that they are very large, and "the kinetics of their distribution to affected areas distant from a central compartment is compromised." Also, they tend not to express very well, he said.

"Probably related to that are [other] issues. One is that the product profile that is generated - and what I mean by that is how these things look in solution - and the extent to which they're homogeneous is also compromised, and characteristically one sees a very complicated profile, which makes it challenging to develop a homogeneous product," Thompson said.

Also, the hurdle of immunogenicity loomed.

"That was the setting and the backdrop wherein we decided if we could resolve all of these issues, we would have a fundamentally new class of biomolecules that would allow us to build a better class of drugs as a potential replacement product for immunopharmaceuticals," he said. "And, long story short, we've been able to accomplish all of those things."

That hurdle of very large biomolecules has been met and overcome by Seattle-based Trubion. SMIPs are "roughly one-third to one-half of the size of antibodies," Thompson said.

Earlier this month, Trubion reported that its initial product candidates demonstrated effectiveness in depleting normal and malignant B cells. Presentations made at the 45 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in San Diego showed that Trubion's TRU-016 SMIP binds to and kills malignant B cells. It does this through several pathways, Trubion said, including apoptosis, complement-dependent cytotoxicity and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity.

Trubion is seeking partners to develop the products that result from its technology, since, as Thompson said, "the capability of this product engine to generate new product candidates exceeds our ability - or probably the ability of any single organization - to take advantage of, in terms of development."

With its current product candidates, which also includes TRU-015, Thompson said the company has sufficient funds "to move forward" itself. Trubion, which has 25 employees, completed a Series A round of $13.6 million at the end of 2002.

"We haven't burned through much of the money, although I won't disclose publicly how much that is, and we have brought a product from concept at the end of 2002 to where we're on track for a 2004 [investigational new drug application], which is astonishing if you've tracked the pace at which products are discovered and developed in general," he said.