DURHAM – Four new biotech leaders have been appointed to the newly formed scientific advisory board at Durham-based biotech company Xilis, the organization announced this week.

The addition of the four industry leaders comes at what Dr. Xiling Shen, the company’s co-founder and CEO, called “an inflection point in our growth.”

That’s because the company currently has clinical trials underway and what Dr. Shen called in a statement “major Pharma collaborations.”

“Right now, most oncology drugs fail clinical trials, and the majority of patients are taking drugs that won’t provide long-term benefits,” said Shen.  “We believe our technology has the potential to radically change the paradigm in cancer drug discovery for the pharmaceutical industry by testing their new drugs on MOS, predicting likely patient drug response in the clinic, and determining which drugs will or won’t work before starting clinical trials.”

The company recently landed $89 million in funding during a Series A fundraising round, following an initial raise of $70 million by a $19 million extension.

“Big Pharma is eager to develop the next generation of cancer treatments, but one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is identifying which new drugs have the highest potential to be effective,” said Dr. Mike Varney, the newly appointed chair of the Xilis Scientific Advisory Board, in a statement. “Xilis technology represents a quantum leap in re-defining a more rational drug development paradigm with improved economics for drug development.”

Durham medtech startup Xilis raises $70M; Google Ventures, Duke Angels among backers


Meet the new members of the advisory board

The new members are, according to a statement from the company:

Chairman of the SAB, Mike Varney, PhD: Dr. Mike Varney is the former Executive Vice President and Head of Genentech Research and Early Development (gRED) and a member of the Roche Corporate Executive Committee. He is a pioneer drug discoverer and biotech leader with deep expertise in diverse drug platform types, including cellular therapies. Currently, Dr. Varney is an Advisor, Board member and SAB member for ERASCA, Pardes Biosciences, Interline, Affini-T and Atomwise.

James Allison, PhD: Dr. James Allison was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which he shared with Dr. Tasuku Honjo, “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.” He is Regental Chair of Immunology, Executive Director of the Immunotherapy Platform and Director of the James P. Allison Institute at MD Anderson. Dr. Allison studies the regulation of T cell responses and developing strategies for cancer immunotherapy. His research led to the development of the first immune checkpoint blockade therapy approved by the FDA.

Padmanee Sharma, MD, PhD: Dr. Padmanee Sharma is a Professor of Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology, Scientific Director for the Immunotherapy Platform and Director of Scientific Programs for the James P. Allison Institute at MD Anderson. Her research enables development of novel immunotherapy strategies for the treatment of cancer patients.

David Tuveson, MD, PhD: Dr. Tuveson serves as the Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cancer Center, the Chief Scientist for the Lustgarten Foundation, Advisory Board Member for the National Cancer Institute, and is a medical staff affiliate at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He was the former President for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Dr. Tuveson’s work as the Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is widely considered as leading the field for pancreatic cancer precision medicine models.