Jan 30, 2017
Agensys, Astellas’ research affiliate, is dedicated to changing tomorrow through cancer research. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based organization has worked to develop a pipeline of therapeutic human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) in order to treat a number of cancers and provide solutions for unmet medical needs. Leading Agensys’ day-to-day management is senior vice president and site head David Stover, who has 23 years of oncology experience in both small molecule and antibody drug discovery.
We recently sat down with Stover to discuss the research underway at Agensys and its focus on improving patient care and lives, and to learn what he’s most excited about in the years to come.
How did you begin your career in oncology research?
I started college wanting to pursue marine biology, but switched to biochemistry after my experience studying at the Duke University marine lab. Although I had a great semester there, I came away learning that marine biology was not what I thought it would be and I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my career.
After that, I turned heavily into the molecular side of biochemistry. Since then, I’ve had a fascination with how biology works at the molecular level, which has been my driving interest scientifically. My first job was within the oncology/infectious diseases department at a different pharmaceutical company. HIV was coming up as an important therapeutic area back then, so I worked on that and helped to develop an HIV protease inhibitor that is now on the market. I also did some of the early work characterizing the kinase specificity of Gleevec. That gave me my first exposure to oncology, and I have since spent most of my career focused on oncology research.
What aspect of working at Agensys and in oncology are you most passionate about?
Oncology is the therapeutic area where the most innovation is occurring on the technology and biochemistry side. At a basic level, the research in oncology reaches almost every aspect of biology.
Our focus at Agensys has been in antibody drug conjugates (ADC). We’ve been looking at the biology and the biochemistry of the tumor, and learning how to attack it both from the surface and the molecular side. This requires a lot of technology and innovation, and has been challenging – but it’s one we are actively taking on.
What does your team hope Agensys’ work will do for the future of cancer care?
Every team hopes they’re able to revolutionize cancer care by increasing the efficacy and tolerability of their therapeutics, in order to both extend and improve patients’ quality of life. We at Agensys are no different, and I believe we are on our way towards that goal with some of our clinical stage programs.
What can the science and research at Agensys do for patients?
We are open to researching ways to treat any type of cancer, and are studying therapeutics for all kinds of cancer patients from those battling renal and urothelial cancers to those with lymphomas and leukemias. Our approach is different than many targeted therapeutics because our platform technologies are based on concepts that are universal, and can be used across many cancer indications.
How has working at Agensys been different from your previous roles?
The way Agensys is organized is really important to how we work. Astellas enables us to function as a small, entrepreneurial group that has all the capabilities required for early drug discovery and development, such as research, manufacturing and clinical development.
Our structure allows us to quickly and efficiently translate new discovery stage concepts and bring them into the clinic, as Astellas’ support helps us succeed in bringing our therapeutics from clinical proof of concept, to commercialization.
To have that combination is fairly rare within the ecosystem of oncology drug discovery and development. I believe Astellas and Agensys are at a unique place that maximizes the efficiency of the whole discovery and development process.