PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aro Biotherapeutics, a newly established biotechnology company, has raised $13 million in start-up investment to develop and commercialize Centyrins, an innovative next generation protein drug platform. Co-founded by Sue Dillon, PhD, and Karyn O’Neil, PhD, both former R&D leaders at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Aro has recruited a highly accomplished scientific and executive management team headquartered in the Pennovation Center in Philadelphia. Aro holds an exclusive worldwide license for Centyrin protein therapeutics, which were discovered by Dr. O’Neil and her team at Janssen. Centyrins are designed to achieve improved efficacy and safety profiles for patients diagnosed with cancer and other serious diseases. Aro was established through an initial start-up investment from Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. (JJDC) and BioMotiv, LLC.
“Centyrins were conceived with the aim of simplifying the complexities of antibodies,” said Dr. Dillon, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Aro. “This has enabled Aro scientists to rapidly create bi- and multi-specific Centyrins that are simultaneously optimized for potent anti-tumor activity and for efficient manufacture in E. coli. In addition, Aro is progressing Centyrin-nucleic acid drug conjugates to enable delivery to tumor cells, immune cells and other tissues with the aim of addressing disease targets that have been considered ‘undruggable.’”
Building a Pipeline of Life Changing Therapies
Centyrins are small, structurally simple, ultra-stable, highly soluble proteins. These characteristics enable the discovery of medicines with new mechanisms of action for cancer and other devastating diseases. Aro’s lead program, which is a bi-specific Centyrin, is in late-stage lead optimization for advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Aro’s second therapeutic program is focused on creating a Centyrin-siRNA conjugate for other forms of cancer. This first-of-its-kind combination is designed to address unmet medical needs by targeting drug payloads in high concentration to the site of disease, while lowering the toxicity to non-target organs. The company holds an exclusive worldwide license for research, development, manufacturing and commercialization of Centyrin protein therapeutics.
Aro Leaders Bring a Track Record of Success in the Discovery, Development and Commercialization of Blockbuster Biologics for Cancer and Immune Diseases
Co-founder Sue Dillon, PhD is Aro’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our executive management team has the breadth of experience to deliver on our promise to patients,” added Dr. Dillon, who previously served as the Global Therapeutic Area Head, Immunology at Janssen, where her team achieved numerous regulatory approvals for innovative antibody products, which included REMICADE®, SIMPONI®, STELARA® and TREMFYA®. Dr. Dillon was named one of the Top Women in Biotech by FierceBiotech in 2013. She received her PhD in Immunology from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Immunology at Duke University.
Co-founder Karyn O’Neil, PhD, is Aro’s Chief Scientific Officer. She previously served as the Director of Antibody Discovery and as the Venture Leader for Centyrex, an internal venture within Janssen. She is co-inventor on the Centyrin patents and led the team focused on advancing the Centyrin platform and establishing its potential for drug delivery. Dr. O’Neil received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania where she focused on protein engineering and protein biophysics. She has authored more than 55 publications, is inventor on over 30 patents, and serves as an editor for Protein Engineering, Design and Selection.
Steve Nadler, PhD, is Vice President of Discovery and Translational Research. Dr. Nadler has over 25 years of extensive R&D experience, most recently serving as the Executive Director and Head Immunoscience, Immuno-oncology and Oncology Discovery Translational Research at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Dr. Nadler played a major role in discovery and development of ORENCIA® and NULOJIX® through global approvals. He received his PhD from the University of Texas at Houston followed by postdoctoral studies at Yale Medical School. Dr. Nadler has authored more than 80 publications and is co-inventor on over 10 patents. He is also an adjunct full professor at Rutgers Medical School.
Derek Miller is Chief Business Officer and Head of Corporate Strategy at Aro. Mr. Miller most recently served as Chief Business Officer for Celator Pharmaceuticals, where he was responsible for developing and executing against the company’s corporate development, pipeline and commercial strategies. Prior to Celator, he had successful track records in Global Launches and Commercialization, Business Development, and Portfolio Strategy at Genentech, Centocor and GlaxoSmithKline. Mr. Miller received an MBA from Villanova University and a BA in Biology from the University of Delaware.
Mark Laurenzi joined Aro as Vice President of Finance and Operations. He has held a number of roles at Johnson & Johnson Innovation, including Venture Leader. Previously, Mr. Laurenzi has consulted with private equity and venture capital firms, serving as an operating partner and interim executive for selected portfolio companies. Mr. Laurenzi received an AB in Economics from Princeton University, and is a graduate of New York University School of Law. He began his career practicing corporate and securities law in New York City.
About Aro Biotherapeutics
Aro is a biotechnology company focused on the research and development of a new generation of protein biologics called Centyrins. The company is developing a wholly-owned pipeline of Centyrins for oncology and immunology, and is working with leaders in the industry on leveraging Centyrins for delivery of a variety of drug payloads, including nucleic acid drugs for a diverse set of diseases. For more information, visit www.arobiotx.com.
*REMICADE®, SIMPONI®, STELARA® and TREMFYA® are registered trademarks of Janssen Biotech, Inc.