Sanford-Burnham News Archive

Oncothyreon Obtains Anti-Bcl-2 Compound from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute; License Will Expand Oncology Product Development Pipeline

LA JOLLA, Calif. , September 12, 2011

Seattle, Washington and La Jolla, California— September 12, 2011 Oncothyreon Inc. (Nasdaq: ONTY) and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) today announced that they have entered into an exclusive licensing agreement for sabutoclax and related compounds. Sabutoclax is a pan-inhibitor of the Bcl-2 family of anti-apoptotic proteins currently in pre-clinical development. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“Overexpression of one or more members of the Bcl-2 family of proteins is common in most human cancers,” said Scott Peterson, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Development at Oncothyreon. “This overexpression prevents the type of cell death known as apoptosis, resulting in resistance to many frequently used cancer treatments.  By blocking Bcl-2 protein function, sabutoclax induces apoptosis in tumor cells and increases the activity of chemotherapy. Sabutoclax inhibits all of the Bcl-2 protein family members, which may prove advantageous when compared with other compounds directed at these targets.”

Sabutoclax was discovered as a result of research in the laboratories of Maurizio Pellecchia, Ph.D. and John C. Reed, M.D, Ph.D. at Sanford-Burnham.  Dr. Reed, who has extensively published on the role of Bcl-2 proteins in cancer, is Chief Executive Officer of Sanford-Burnham. Reed commented, “We are confident that we have found a strong development partner in the Oncothyreon team that is dedicated to advancing sabutoclax into the clinic for patients battling with cancer." 

“We are excited to expand our pipeline of small molecule compounds being developed in oncology,” said Robert L. Kirkman, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer at Oncothyreon. “Maintaining and advancing a diverse pipeline of both targeted small molecules and therapeutic vaccines for the treatment of cancer is an integral component of our corporate strategy.”  

Maurizio Pellecchia, Ph.D.,
Sanford-Burnham professor and co-developer of sabutoclax

Bcl-Xl, part of the Bcl-2 protein family, helps keep cancer cells alive. (Image courtesy of the Pellecchia laboratory)

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Sanford-Burnham takes a collaborative approach to medical research with major programs in cancer, neurodegeneration and stem cells, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is recognized for its National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and expertise in drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a nonprofit, independent institute that employs more than 1,000 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla. For more information, visit us at

Sanford-Burnham can also be found on Facebook at and on Twitter @sanfordburnham.

News & News and Press - Sanford-Burnham Boilerplate
Sign In Skip Navigation Links Skip navigation links
News Archive
Sanford-Burnham In The News
Media Contacts and Guidelines
News Search
Paper of the Week
Quarterly Science Highlights
Multimedia Resources