SAN DIEGO—Ambit Biosciences recently announced the appointments of Dr. Robert deGroof and Dr. Shripad Bhagwat to the positions of senior vice president of development and senior vice president of drug discovery, respectively.
The announcement is notable given that neither position existed before, and the arrival of deGroof and Bhagwat marks a significant step forward for the young biopharm company.
"This company was started with a very heavy technology development and research focus," says Dr. David J. Lockhart, Ambit's president and chief scientific officer. "And for good reason, since the purpose of doing that was to develop a platform for discovering and developing new drugs. Fortunately, that platform works, but with the company being so biased toward tech and research, we needed the expertise that Shripad and Bob could bring to move us forward in the next stage of our evolution."
The timing of their hiring is no accident, nor was the fact they were hired together. The success of Ambit's screening platform has already resulted in two promising molecules, one of which should be in trials no later than the beginning of next year and the other following close behind.
"The addition of Bob and Shripad to Ambit's senior management team comes at a key time as we prepare to advance our lead drug candidate, a small-molecule neuroprotectant for the treatment of stroke and other CNS disorders, into the clinic by the end of this year," explains Scott Salka, chief executive officer of Ambit. "Their expertise will be invaluable as we add to our pipeline of small-molecule drug candidates, prepare to file INDs, and design and conduct clinical trials."
The second drug candidate is a kinase inhibitor that acts on the kinase known as FLT-3. It has potential indications for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia and is expected to begin trials in mid-2006, Lockhart says.
Bhagwat will manage the identification and preclinical development of promising leads identified through Ambit's proprietary screening technology. For his part, deGroof will head efforts to advance the company's small-molecule drug candidates into clinical trials.
With a doctorate in physiology and pharmacology, deGroof brings more than 20 years of pharmaceutical industry experience, including expertise in clinical development and regulatory affairs. He previously served as senior vice president of scientific affairs at Alteon. He also has held drug positions at Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
Also bringing more than 20 years of pharmaceutical experience, Bhagwat holds a doctoral degree in organic chemistry, has published more than 50 scientific papers and has been named as an inventor on more than 40 issued and pending patents. His last position was vice president of drug discovery at Celgene Corp. He also has worked at Signal Pharmaceu-ticals, Abbott Laboratories and Ciba-Geigy Corp.