MD Anderson and Deerfield Management create Vescor LLC to develop novel therapeutics based on
inhibiting autophagy for treatment of specific cancers
HOUSTON and NEW YORK, Jan. 11, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ‐‐ Vescor LLC, a new company focused on
discovery and development of autophagy targeted therapeutics for cancer treatment, has been formed
by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Deerfield Management and two leading
autophagy experts, Eileen White, Ph.D., deputy director and associate director for Basic Science, Rutgers
Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and Alec Kimmelman, M.D., Ph.D., chairman, Department of Radiation
Oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center and a member of the Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU
Vescor, advised by its scientific founders White and Kimmelman, whose research has shown inhibition
of autophagy can dramatically impact tumor growth in pre‐clinical models, will develop small molecule
inhibitors of a number of protein targets at critical nodes of the autophagy cascade, perform
investigational new drug (IND) enabling studies, and move these into clinical development. MD
Anderson’s Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) in combination with Deerfield will provide drug
discovery and development expertise, together with translational research focused at advancing
autophagy therapeutics into trials in melanoma, lung and pancreatic cancers.
Autophagy is a cellular process that plays an important role during the development and maintenance of
tumors, providing them with the metabolic plasticity to meet their energetic needs, and requirements
for cellular building blocks. It allows tumors to scavenge nutrients to sustain growth and survival.
Autophagy also has been demonstrated as critical to therapeutic resistance, and is upregulated during
cancer treatment in response to chemotherapy and radiation.
“Nutrient scavenging by autophagy is a process that tumors hijack to meet their energetic requirements
and to provide the necessary cellular building blocks for growth in a stressed tumor micro‐
environment,” said White. “Preclinical models have demonstrated a critical role for autophagy in
multiple cancer types.”
Autophagy has been known for over 50 years but its fundamental importance in physiology and
medicine was only recognized after Yoshinori Ohsumi’s paradigm‐shifting research in the 1990’s that
allowed the detailed study of the process for which he was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in physiology
“Numerous pre‐clinical studies have now shown a requirement for autophagy in sustaining tumor
growth, including pancreatic cancer, as well as in providing a mechanism of resistance to a number of
currently used therapies,” said Kimmelman. “There is a need for potent and specific autophagy
inhibitors to advance these important findings into clinical practice.”
In creating Vescor, Deerfield and MD Anderson aim to perform drug discovery and development in a
markedly different way than traditional oncology start‐ups. Core activities will be performed at IACS,
which provides deep drug discovery and translational research expertise and capabilities, while
managerial and operational expertise is provided by both IACS and Deerfield.
“We are excited to join forces with Drs. White and Kimmelman, two world‐leading autophagy experts,”
said Phil Jones, Ph.D., IACS’s executive director and head of drug discovery. “Our goal is to drive novel
drug discovery paradigms and develop cancer therapeutics targeting unexplored mechanisms that might
provide high clinical impact. We are delighted to partner in this effort to advance novel drugs towards
Vescor’s goal is to generate at least one IND‐ready asset in a condensed timeframe. This capital‐efficient
model is possible due to the availability of 100 percent of dedicated resources advancing product
“We believe Vescor will identify opportunities to significantly advance the treatment of cancer through
manipulating autophagy and thus restore cellular homeostasis leading to the potential reduction of
cancer disease burden,” stated William Slattery, Partner at Deerfield. “We look forward to working with
Drs. White and Kimmelman and MD Anderson to expedite the novel biology of autophagy and
to develop drugs that have the ability to impact the lives of patients.”
Deerfield is an investment management firm committed to advancing healthcare through investment,
information and philanthropy.
About MD Anderson
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston ranks as one of the world’s most
respected centers focused on cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. The institution’s
sole mission is to end cancer for patients and their families around the world. MD Anderson is one of
only 45 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). MD Anderson
is ranked No.1 for cancer care in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals” survey. It has ranked as
one of the nation’s top two hospitals since the survey began in 1990, and has ranked first for nine of the
past 10 years. MD Anderson receives a cancer center support grant from the NCI of the National
Institutes of Health (P30 CA016672).
How Can You Make A Difference?