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 November, we spoke with Blaine McKee, Ph.D., CEO and President of Walden Biosciences. Blaine has been working to tackle some of the world’s most complex diseases for more than two decades. At Walden, Blaine led a blue-chip Series A financing of over $50 million and established a brick-and-mortar facility in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA. Having recruited, industry-leading executives, scientists, and operational experts, McKee has grown the Company to more than 25 employees. Walden is preparing to initiate multiple clinical trials in 2023.
Tells us about your organization, its mission and current initiatives
Walden Biosciences is focused on developing breakthrough medicines to treat both rare and common forms of kidney disease. Founded by world-renowned renal experts, Walden is applying novel, multi-disciplinary approaches that directly target the kidneys to prevent damage, slow disease progression and/or restore kidney function. Walden’s programs address two novel targets for therapeutic intervention, directly targeting two cell types in the kidney: podocytes and proximal tubular cells. Dysfunction of these cells are critical progression drivers for the majority of renal diseases. Walden’s most advanced program is a humanized antibody that inhibits soluble urokinase plasminogen activating receptor, or suPAR, a pro-inflammatory mediator that causes podocyte dysfunction and renal disease. Walden’s second program is a small molecule that is designed to restore the function of dynamin, an enzyme responsible for the maintenance of the cytoskeletal architecture of podocytes and proximal tubule cells. Both programs offer the promise to deliver breakthrough therapies, transforming the treatment of renal disease.
How does your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?
Over 10% of the world’s population is currently living with kidney disease, and current therapies on the market only delay progression to dialysis or transplant, and do not directly target the kidneys. Walden is working to treat renal disease by addressing the root causes, directly targeting the kidney and restoring kidney function.
What do you see the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today?
The biggest challenge for the life sciences industry and companies looking to develop innovative therapies has become raising capital. The broader political and economic uncertainties have had a direct impact on the ability of health care companies to fund research and development.
What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?
By the end of 2023, Walden plans to conduct first-in-human studies for its suPAR program and to file an Investigational New Drug Application for its dynamin program. The Phase 1+ healthy volunteer study for suPAR is on track to report both safety and activity data in 2023.
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