CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Padlock Therapeutics, a biotechnology company dedicated to creating new medicines for destructive autoimmune diseases, today announced the appointment of Kerri Mowen, Ph.D., one of the Company’s scientific co-founders, to the newly created position of Director of Biology. Dr. Mowen is a leading expert in the biology of protein-arginine deiminase (PAD) enzymes. Recent advances in PAD biology and biochemistry, including work by Padlock’s scientific co-founders, have enabled pursuit of rational development of inhibitors of these enzymes for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory disease. Dr. Mowen has developed PAD-dependent cell and animal models to investigate the impact of protein citrullination on normal physiology and disease, with a particular emphasis on the immune response. She will direct a team of biologists in a newly-established Padlock location as a resident company at the Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS) incubator in San Diego.
In addition, the Padlock east coast headquarters will be relocating to new facilities in Cambridge which will include research laboratories and office space. The move corresponds to the significant advancements in Padlock’s drug development efforts and an expanded recognition of the broad therapeutic footprint of PAD biology, including autoimmunity, general inflammation, neurodegeneration, and thrombosis.
“Kerri is an inventive biologist and an exceptional scientific leader who will play a key role in helping us accelerate our lead program into IND-enabling pre-clinical studies in the coming year,” said Michael Gilman, Ph.D., Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Padlock. “We are extremely fortunate that she has decided to join the Padlock team full-time and look forward to the significant contributions she and her colleagues will make to our broader scientific and business goals.”
“Padlock has built a cutting-edge PAD-focused drug discovery platform, assembled a team of leading PAD scientists, and created a robust portfolio of proprietary investigational compounds,” said Dr. Mowen. “I welcome the opportunity to be part of the team that is integrating these capabilities for the purpose of creating first-in-class medicines that have the potential to improve the lives of patients with autoimmune and other diseases.”
Dr. Mowen developed a fascination with the immune system while studying biology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. After graduating Summa Cum Laude in 1996, she enrolled in the Ph.D. program of the biology department at the University of California San Diego under the supervision of Professor Michael David. Dr. Mowen was made a Lucille P. Markey Doctoral Fellow while conducting molecular immunology research in Professor David’s laboratories. In 2000, Dr. Mowen joined the lab of Professor Laurie Glimcher at Harvard University, where she was a Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellow. While at Harvard, Dr. Mowen studied molecular and cellular immunology until 2005, at which point she joined the faculty at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, where she focused her work on the role of arginine post-translational modifications, including protein citrullination by PAD enzymes. As a faculty member at TSRI, Dr. Mowen was awarded the Donald and Delia Baxter Foundation Young Career Scientist Award and was also named The Hulda Irene Duggan Arthritis Investigator by the Arthritis Foundation. Dr. Mowen’s group developed a number of unique animal models and research tools to facilitate the study of protein citrullination on biology and disease, with a particular emphasis on the immune response.
About PAD Enzymes and Autoimmune Disease
Padlock’s founding hypothesis is that autoimmune disease can result from the aberrant production of neo-antigens, materials not normally expressed during homeostatic health and, as a consequence, recognized as foreign by the immune system. These antigens drive both the initiation and the subsequent development of disease by inducing maturation of the immune response. Once disease is established, antigen production fuels inflammatory cycles in affected organs and drives the formation and deposition of immune complexes, which account for much of the morbidity and mortality in patients with autoimmune disease. Therefore, in patients where the source of neo-antigen is known, extinguishing antigen production offers the potential to impact disease progression and intensity without affecting systemic immunity.
The protein-arginine deiminases (PADs) are a family of enzymes that post-translationally modify arginine side chains on proteins to the non-encoded amino acid citrulline. In some patients, these citrullinated proteins are immunogenic. Therefore, PAD enzymes may be responsible for producing the antigens that drive disease in these individuals. Inhibiting PADs in these patients may provide an innovative and orthogonal approach for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, and other destructive autoimmune diseases.
Padlock Therapeutics is a private, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company dedicated to creating new medicines to treat destructive autoimmune diseases. The company leverages breakthrough science on the biochemistry of the protein-arginine deiminase (PAD) enzymes, the role of PADs in generating autoantigens, and the role of protein citrullination in disease to develop novel drugs targeting the PAD enzymes. Padlock was founded by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in conjunction with Atlas Venture. Padlock’s Series A investors include Atlas Venture, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc., MS Ventures, and Index Ventures. For more information on Padlock, visit www.padlocktherapeutics.com.