Updated on 18 March 2013
In the last one year, the company has earned approval for phase I/II ovarian clinical trial of candidate BNC105 in women with ovarian cancer in combination with carboplatin and gemcitabine in a multi-centre trial in Australia and the US. Dr Rathjen also led the company to secure a new US patent critical to its Kv1.3 program, which is focused on developing new treatments for common autoimmune disorders. The patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office relates to compounds useful in the modulation of potassium channel activity in cells, particularly the activity of Kv1.3 channels found in T cells, and protects the use of these compounds in the treatment or prevention of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The company is now accelerating the program to include important immune-related conditions in addition to multiple sclerosis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.
Under Dr Rathjen, Bionomics also inked a deal with Swiss life sciences company Lonza for the development and manufacturing of its antibody. Again in September 2012, she led Bionomics in the acquisition of San Diego-based Eclipse Therapeutics. Eclipse was a spin-out from Biogen Idec and it brought two cancer stem cell-targeting antibodies, now known as BNC101 and BNC102, to Bionomics. BNC101 is anticipated to commence clinical trials in 2014.
She has also played an equally important role in building a sound management circuit within the company. Talking about Bionomics' team, she says, "Culture is an important and critical element in the success of Bionomics. Our teams are multinational and well as multidisciplinary. I am privileged to be supported by a highly experienced and dedicated management group," she says.
Bionomics is also partnering with other companies to generate new revenue streams and reduce execution risk of its programs. For instance, it has partnered with Ironwood Pharmaceuticals for the discovery and early development of BNC210 (now IW-2143) for anxiety. The deal provided it with an upfront payment of up to $345 million for development (clinical trials) of the candidate. It also provided regulatory milestone payments and sealed royalty on net sales of products incorporating BNC210 (IW-2143).
The making of a businesswoman
Dr Rathjen inculcated interest in science when she was a high school student in Adelaide, Australia. She never made science an academic goal but had immense curiosity for bioscience puzzles. As her knowledge and interest grew in the field, she developed a quest for the functioning of the immune system, how it worked to fight infection and how 'rogue' immune cells caused autoimmune diseases.