Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and the great work they’re doing to advance the life sciences industry and support the patients we serve. In September, we spoke with Markus Renschler, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cyteir Therapeutics, Inc. Dr. Renschler is experienced in building companies, raising capital in private and public markets, and developing oncology drugs. He led Cyteir from start-up to public clinical stage company. He is a Board-certified medical oncologist with 25 years’ experience in cancer research from basic laboratory research to drug approval and commercialization. He has been in the pharmaceutical industry as a CEO, and in clinical R&D, project leadership, business development, and medical affairs for more than 20 years, with successful global registrations in breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Tell us about your organization, its mission, and current initiatives.
Cyteir is a clinical-stage oncology company focused on the discovery and development of next-generation synthetically lethal therapies to treat cancer. We have a pioneering spirit that puts patients first as we advance science within a collaborative culture. From a science perspective, we employ an integrated target discovery approach that incorporates a critical evaluation of the target biology with internal and external information from a variety of genetic and chemical synthetic lethality screens to fuel our drug discovery and development pipeline. Our wholly owned lead compound, CYT-0851, is a selective oral investigational drug currently in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial for hematologic malignancies and solid tumors, and we have shown early efficacy with CYT-0851 in a variety of tumors with a favorable safety profile.
How do your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?
We are patient-focused and remain committed to using scientific expertise to discover and advance novel therapies that deliver transformational therapies to patients with hard-to-treat cancers. At Cyteir, we know our commitment to good science must work in parallel with our commitment to patients in need. Despite advances over the past few decades with novel and targeted cancer therapies, there is still an unmet need with most cancers, especially for patients who are refractory to their therapies. The goal for any oncologist is to get a patient to the best response possible and have that patient be in remission for as long as possible, while maintaining a good quality of life. Thus, at Cyteir, we strive to develop therapies with a favorable safety profile that can be taken orally at home with minimal care. In addition, we prioritize our targets based on both their role in cancer as well as an identifiable patient population that we predict would benefit from the targeted therapy.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today?
Success in the biotech industry requires innovative ideas, talent, hard work, perseverance, and funding. We have one of the highest failure rates of all industries, because the outcome of preclinical research is often not predictive of the outcome in humans. Drug discovery and development is complex, takes over a decade on average, is expensive with average development costs of over $1B for each drug that gets approved, and requires special skills and expertise. With the high risk comes difficulty in raising money, especially in tough markets, like today. For a small, early-stage company, competition for talent is often one of the biggest challenges and that is especially true in the greater Boston area, one of the leading areas in the country for biotech startups, where the best and brightest have already congregated. Cyteir’s culture is based on being science driven, dedicated to bringing new drugs to cancer patients who so desperately need them, and working in an open, transparent, learning environment where everyone contributes their diverse expertise to making a difference in patients’ lives. We encourage innovative, out of the box thinking and risk taking, mixed with hard work and expediency, as patients can’t wait. We are a high energy place where every person and everyday matters. We moved our lead compound, CYT-0851, from invention to the first patient dosed in just two years. With great science we will excel and build a leading synthetic lethality company with people who want to be at the cutting edge of science. We are committed to teamwork, open discussion, and challenging ourselves create the best environment for excellence.
What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?
We are excited to be well-financed and well-positioned to become a leading biotech company focused on synthetic lethality. Our lead compound, CYT-0851, has demonstrated broad clinical activity in hematologic malignancies and solid tumors with a generally well-tolerated safety profile. The Phase 1 combination trial with 851 and the Phase 2 monotherapy expansion cohorts are currently enrolling, and data on these cohorts are expected beginning in Q4 of 2022. In addition, we are building a pipeline of novel synthetic lethal drugs with news to come on their potential in the coming year.
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