Stephen Evans-Freke, who invented the research anddevelopment limited partnerships used by many biotechnologycompanies to raise funds, will head up a new company formedto exploit the new wave of cell receptor technology.

Sugen Inc. will develop small-molecule drugs to treat diabetesand cancer, and blood, neurological and immune disorders. Thetherapeutics will be based on two classes of cell receptorsystems that act as key regulatory mechanisms for cellphysiology.

Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) and receptor tyrosinephosphotases (RTP) act, respectively, as biochemical "on" and"off" switches for cellular signals. Processes controlled by thereceptors include growth, tissue regeneration, defense andpathological agents, and many nervous system functions.

Evans-Freke said he believes that receptor technology will bethe basis of the next generation of biotechnology. "Receptorsare the way that the body achieves specificity," he said. "It'sthe logical way to go with drug development. Small moleculesare the wave of the future as well. The springboard we haveand the power of (our) scientists make it just too damnedexciting to ignore."

Sugen has research agreements with New York UniversityMedical Center and the Max-Planck-Institut fur Biochemie inMartinsried, Germany. Research will be led by Dr. JosephSchlessinger, chairman of the department of pharmacology atthe NYU Medical Center, and Dr. Axel Ullrich, director of thedepartment of molecular biology at Max-Planck.

Schlessinger and Ullrich have been collaborating in the studyof different RTK and RTP receptors. "If you have the kinase andthe phosphotase for any particular metabolism, you can lookfor an antagonist for the kinase, which is like the gas pedal, toturn it off," said Evans-Freke. "Or you can look for an agonistfor the phosphotase, which is like pushing the brake pedal."

The first target areas for Sugen will be diabetes, especiallyType II, and breast, ovarian, squamous and melanoma cancers.

Evans-Freke raised nearly $4 million in seed funds for Sugenthrough his corporate vehicle, International TechnologyInvestment Managers (ITIM). Both NYU and Max-Planck haveequity participation options with Sugen, which Max-Planck hasalready exercised.

Sugen will be located in the San Francisco area and will beoperational by the end of this year. Evans-Freke will bechairman and chief executive officer. Dr. Paul Greengard, headof molecular and cellular neuroscience at RockefellerUniversity, will chair Sugen's scientific advisory board.

Evans-Freke left PaineWebber, where he developed the R&Dlimited partnerships, in April 1990 and formed New York-based ITIM as his corporate vehicle. He is also chairman andacting chief financial officer of Tucson, Ariz.-based SelectideCorp., which he funded last year to develop peptide synthesistechnology. Sugen and Selectide will participate in a jointventure to identify peptide drug candidates.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.