London medical research gives birth to new bi...

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London medical research gives birth to new biotechnology companyLONDON, ON (May 1, 1998) --London's medical research community is committed to the idea that research discoveries should enhance The City's business development goals. That commitment has paid off with the creation of a new biotechnology company launched via a partnership between three major London research facilities--The John P. Robarts Research Institute, The London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and The University of Western Ontario (UWO). Today Viron Therapeutics Inc. is a business reality.When the partners recruited Drs. Alex Lucas and Grant McFadden to London in July 1996, it was known that they were making outstanding contributions to both biology and medicine, but there was little idea that the foundation for a new biotechnology company was being built. The two scientists were brought from Alberta as Robarts scientists with UWO appointments; Dr. Lucas as a cardiologist at LHSC and a member of the UWO Department of Medicine and Dr. McFadden as head of the Robarts Laboratory for Viral Immunology and Pathogenesis and a member of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UWO.Critical discoveries by McFadden and Lucas have resulted in the evolution of Viron Therapeutics Inc. and involve the identification of unique proteins--perfected over millions of years through natural selection--that allow viruses to avoid detection and destruction by the body's immune system. Dr. McFadden explains: "In essence, these viruses have learned how to fool our immune system's circuitry. Viruses can teach us a lot about how the immune system fails--not just in viral infections--but in cancers and other immune diseases." He adds: "Viron will exploit these novel proteins to develop new therapies for a variety of immune disorders such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Asthma."This new business is an excellent example of how partnership works in London. Many people collaborated to help Viron get underway and past the venture capital funding hurdle. Dr. Mark Poznansky, President and Scientific Director of Robarts, and Dr. Calvin Stiller, a former Robarts Board Member, covered a key element when they were able to persuade Dr. Ronald Layden to leave the pharmaceutical giant, Eli Lilly, to act as President for the new company in June 1997. Dr. Layden, in turn, brought Dr. Susanne Acklin from Eli Lilly to act as Director of Product Development. Dr. Colin Macaulay was then recruited as Senior Scientist in charge of the research laboratory.Michael Crowley, Assistant Vice President of Business Development at Robarts, played a leadership role in championing the process of getting the business underway, with critical input from Cheryl Litchfield of the Office of Industry Liaison at UWO in the development of a comprehensive business plan. The Robarts Business Development Committee contributed sound strategic advice along the way. The company moved out of Robarts where it had been "incubating" to the UWO Research Park. Dr. Layden provided the critical determination and credibility to bring investors to the table. Viron Therapeutics Homepage For more information, please contact:Irene Posliff, Communications Officer, The John P. Robarts Research Institute, (519) 663-3021