Fore Bio lands in Philadelphia
Fore Biotherapeutics (formerly NovellusDx) announced in May that the precision oncology company is opening its global headquarters in Philadelphia’s biotech hub, which is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s leading life science hubs. Just over a week after opening the company’s global headquarters in Philadelphia, Fore grew its U.S. team with the additions of Stacie Shepherd, M.D., Ph.D., as chief medical officer and Nora Brennan as chief financial officer. In addition, experienced biopharma executive Meenu Chhabra joined the company’s board of directors. CEO Usama Malik is leading this exciting period of growth for Fore as the company evolves as a leader in precision oncology with its unique business model and ability to deliver the right therapies to currently underserved patients.
Med Ad News: What factors led to the decision by Jerusalem-based Fore Biotherapeutics to establish the company’s global headquarters in the United States?
Usama Malik: Philadelphia has recently been recognized as one of the nation’s top life science real estate markets and leading life science hubs. Between 2019 and 2020, life science venture capital funding in the region increased by 350 percent, and construction of lab and office space is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, with up to 2 million square feet of new construction planned by 2024.1 Fore’s discovery and functional genomics platform team will continue to be based out of Jerusalem, while future operational growth across clinical, manufacturing, financial, and commercial operations will be planned in and around the Philadelphia biotech hub.
Med Ad News: What benefits does the Philadelphia area and biotech hub offer for Fore Bio and other members in the life sciences industry?
Usama Malik: With access to talent, major universities, renowned healthcare institutions, and laboratory space, Philadelphia has the fourth-highest concentration of colleges and universities in the U.S. and generates $10.5 billion in R&D spending each year. Fore will open its new headquarters on Market Street in the CIC Philadelphia shared workspace, a hotspot for regional innovation, which includes laboratory, office, and coworking spaces. Fore’s location in Philadelphia puts the organization in proximity to global financial leaders in New York City and an esteemed base of potential strategic partners in New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
Med Ad News: Please discuss how Fore Bio is at the forefront of redefining drug development in precision oncology.
Usama Malik: Current precision medicine development generally addresses more commonly known mutations in cancer but is not tailored for people with rarer or less understood tumor mutations. Together, rare mutations are estimated to affect up to 18,000 people diagnosed with cancer every year in the U.S. Fore is pioneering a novel approach to cancer drug development by using functional genomics screening to match patients with rarer and unaddressed cancer mutations to clinically validated therapies. Our functional genomics platform, Foresight, elucidates disease biology for people with rare, unaddressed tumor mutations with more depth and breadth than any other current technique. By hyper-targeting clinically validated candidates to the right patients, Fore can improve the chances of success and get precision medicines to people faster.
Med Ad News: Please discuss the promising clinical activity demonstrated by the company’s lead program FORE8394 (formerly PLX8394), which targets unaddressed BRAF mutations.
Usama Malik: Fore’s lead asset is a Class I/II BRAF inhibitor for RAS-mutant cancers and is currently being evaluated in a Phase I dose-finding study. The current BRAF drugs only address specific tumor types with the V600 BRAF mutation. FORE8394 addresses tumor-specific and tumor-agnostic opportunities both in V600, and beyond in Class II mutations, including fusions. Based on promising Phase I clinical data, and analysis on Foresight, its functional genomics platform, FORE8394 will address tumor-specific opportunities in V600, CNS disease across Class I and Class II mutations, as well as tumor-agnostic opportunities in Class II mutations, including fusions.
The company plans to in-license additional clinical-stage assets identified through its integrated functional genomics and machine learning drug discovery engine, Foresight, in the coming months. For example, a recent peer-reviewed publication in the European Journal of Cancer shows that the company’s functional genomics screening strategy is highly effective for patients with cancer caused by RAS mutations.
Med Ad News: What are some of the positive industry trends in the precision oncology space?
Usama Malik: The first generation of targeted oncology has successfully shown that genomic-based targeting of drugs can drive significant clinical value for patients with high unmet need. Fore’s strategy builds on original approaches, but further enhances the level of precision and depth across validated oncology targets. Foresight, the company’s functional genomics platform, characterizes the widest known set of mutations on a given target, and helps identify previously unknown or unaddressed driver mutations where targeted therapies in the clinic can drive material clinical benefit for patients with few to no therapeutic alternatives. For example, in BRAF, the company has characterized over 400 mutations, an order of magnitude larger than other institutions, to refine its clinical development approach across a much wider set of mutations in the next generation of BRAF drugs. With its time and operational advantage, Fore expects to put FORE8394 into registrational-oriented studies in 2021, and aims to bring the drug to patients with unmet needs as quickly as possible, working with the FDA.
1. “Philadelphia Life Sciences Market Overview.” CBRE. April 2021.