Women’s Health Biotech Celmatix focused uniquely on ovarian biology has announced the appointment of Dr. Stephen Palmer as Chief Scientific Officer. Dr. Palmer had previously joined the company’s Scientific Advisory Board earlier this year, on the heels of rapid progress with Celmatix’s lead AMHR2 agonist program and the out-licensing of PCOS targets from its multi-omics ovarian health platform.
Dr. Palmer is a biopharmaceutical veteran with over 30 years of experience in drug discovery and development. This includes a rare combination of R&D expertise as a pharmaceutical executive at top global biopharmaceutical companies, scientific founder of a biotech that was acquired by a public pharmaceutical company, and as a thought leader at an academic institution pioneering new uses of DNA-encoded libraries in drug discovery. As the company began preparations for IND-enabling studies and clinical development strategy for its AMHR2 agonist program, Dr. Palmer’s leadership and deep drug development experience navigating novel modalities, indications, assay and in vitro / in vivo model systems in women’s health has accelerated Celmatix’s program development and unlocked additional synergies in the clinical development roadmap. With extensive partnering interest and novel biology to choose from, Dr. Palmer’s unique expertise in pipeline prioritization comes at the right time.
During Dr. Palmer’s tenure at Merck Group, he served as Global Head of Reproductive Health Research, overseeing research, development, regulatory, and post-approval research and marketing activities of key women’s health drug programs. These include engineered rh-FSH glycosylation variants, engineered recombinant TNF-α soluble binding proteins to resolve inflammation disrupting endometrial function, and G-CSF-hCG fusion proteins to improve endometrial receptivity for treating embryo implantation failure. Beyond biological entities, he led efforts to introduce kinase inhibitors (JNK, MEK, IKKB, PI3K-d) to reduce inflammation associated with reproductive tract disorders, EP2 agonists for ovulation induction and endometrial receptivity, and EP4 antagonists to address cervical precancerous hyperplasia. He also led a team to develop the first microarray-based methods for characterizing aneuploidy and genomic competency of single cells from human embryos, and acted as internal scientific expert for evaluation of technology platforms suitable for increasing IVF pregnancy rates through embryo evaluation. As a member of the management team at Merck KGaA, he also worked with the strategic planning team to support country launches of Gonal-F, Luveris, Ovidrel, and Cetrotide products for the Fertility franchise.
Dr. Palmer then led the spinout of the first orally-available FSH programs from Merck, becoming scientific founder and CSO of TocopheRx, where he led a team to successfully develop two small molecule FSH receptor (FSHR) allosteric agonists, TOP5300 and TOP5668. These programs generated a new modality for the treatment of female and male infertility, a substantial improvement over the existing standard of care, which is largely reliant on extended treatments with injectable gonadotropins. His work with TOP5300 highlighted its preferential effectiveness in granulosa cells from women diagnosed with PCOS compared to rFSH. These findings will be presented at the prestigious Society for Reproductive Investigation (SRI) Annual Meeting this summer.
The foundation was laid for Dr. Palmer’s success at Merck and TocopheRx during his early research in endometrial and cervical biology at J&J. His work in contraceptive research at the J&J Pharmaceutical Research & Development Institute (J&JPRI) led to the discovery of non-steroidal progestins and progesterone receptor modulators with high selectivity against androgen, corticosteroid, and estrogen receptors, improving upon the existing standard of care by overcoming the challenges of androgenic effects of several contraceptive products for women.
Most recently, Dr. Palmer served as Associate Professor and Director of Lead Discovery and Development at the Center for Drug Discovery at Baylor, where he led a team in applying DNA-encoded chemical library (DEC-Tec) technologies toward the discovery of novel regulators of reproductive, inflammatory, and oncology targets. He has provided preclinical and clinical development planning for multiple projects, including bromodomain-2 specific inhibitors of BRDT, the testis-specific transcription factor. He also managed a portfolio of over 12 independent NCE target discovery teams at Baylor College of Medicine.
Dr. Palmer commented, “As a 30 year veteran of therapeutic discovery and development in women’s health, I know there are less-than-ideal solutions to treat conditions that affect women. The challenge for the industry has been to discover novel regulators that are safe and effective for this population. Addressing ovarian function as a focused pillar of Celmatix’s strategy opens up new pathways and MOAs for the many diseases of ovarian aging and dysfunction. Working closely with the Celmatix team these past few months on their lead AMHR2 agonist program and pipeline prioritization has made it clear that the company is poised to provide women with greater treatment choice and autonomy over their lifetime of health decisions. Joining a team that is this high caliber, passionate about ovarian health, and with a powerful platform to unlock first-in-class biology and new therapeutic MOAs for women is a once-in-a-career opportunity. I jumped at the chance to expand my role at Celmatix, and work with Dr. Beim and her team on making the vision of women’s health as the next frontier of precision medicine a reality.”
Dr. Piraye Yurttas Beim, Celmatix Founder and CEO commented, “It has been a true privilege to lead Celmatix’s scientific efforts from the founding of the company through the development of our ovarian health platform, initiation of our AMHR2 program, and the out-license of our partnered PCOS programs. We are now entering a critical phase of our growth where translating our discoveries and novel biology into robust preclinical and clinical programs as we expand and advance our pipeline will be essential to the success of the company. Dr. Palmer is the ideal scientific leader for this phase of our growth. He brings deep technical expertise and a strong record of leading programs from discovery to the clinic and beyond. He also has a strong network of relationships with key collaborators and investigators in academia and across the biopharmaceutical industry, which will be critical as we progress to the clinic and prioritize our pipeline and partnering opportunities. As an established R&D leader in reproductive medicine, he has brought a key strategic and execution-oriented perspective on drug development to our efforts since joining our Scientific Advisory Board. We are delighted to welcome him as our new CSO, and are confident that together we will usher in the era of precision medicine women have long deserved.”