15.9.2021 / Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki, Finland and London, UK, 15 September, 2021: Rappta Therapeutics (“Rappta”), which is focused on developing first-in-class anti-cancer drugs reactivating protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A), announces today the appointment of Sunjeet Sawhney as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with immediate effect. Rappta’s Co-founder and Founding CEO Mikko Mannerkoski will move to be Chief Financial Officer (CFO) as planned.
With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Sunjeet joins Rappta from Ipsen where he has most recently been the Global Head of the Oncology Franchise. Prior to this Sunjeet led businesses across a range of geographies both in biotech and major pharmaceutical companies. Sunjeet holds a MSc in Immunology from the University of London and will be based in London, UK.
In October 2020, Rappta raised its first round of financing from blue-chip investors Advent Life Sciences, Novartis Bioventures, Novo Holdings, and a family office. Under the scientific leadership of Dr. Goutham Narla, Rappta’s Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, the Company is developing first-in-class anti-cancer drugs reactivating PP2A – a critical enzyme regulating protein de-phosphorylation and a key tumor suppressor which to date has been very difficult to target pharmaceutically. Rappta’s strengthened leadership team is well-positioned to take its first-in-class program of PP2A-reactivating anti-cancer molecules to IND/CTA-enabling studies in the first half of 2022.
Sunjeet Sawhney, CEO of Rappta Therapeutics, commented: “I am honored to have been given the opportunity to lead Rappta. The Company’s robust first-in-class program of anti-cancer drugs that reactivate PP2A represents an exciting clinical and commercial opportunity, much like kinase inhibitors did more than two decades ago. I am particularly impressed with the rigorous science and the swift progress that the team has made in moving the program forward from discovery towards development. I look forward to working together with the Rappta team in progressing our lead compounds while continuing to leverage our proprietary tools and unique understanding of PP2A to build a platform of a new class of anti-cancer drugs.”
Mikko Mannerkoski, CFO and Co-Founder of Rappta Therapeutics, commented: “I look forward to working with Sunjeet, an experienced industry leader, to guide the Company through the next important stages of growth. As an entrepreneur and co-founder, it gives me great pride that Rappta has in a very short period of time built a robust drug development program that is ready to enter IND/CTA-enabling studies and subsequent first-in-human clinical trials, which has the potential to offer real benefit to patients while creating value for our shareholders.”
Goutham Narla, Rappta’s CSO and Co-Founder, commented: “I am thrilled to work with Sunjeet on this opportunity to build a new platform and a novel class of pharmaceuticals to treat cancer. We have a unique team whose deep understanding of the PP2A biochemistry, structural biology, biogenesis, medicinal chemistry, and drug development represent a great combination of expertise to translate these discoveries into meaningful outcomes for patients. Sunjeet’s vast industry experience will add a new dimension to our competencies and accelerate the growth of the Company.”
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Rappta Therapeutics, a private biotech with operations in Finland, UK and the US, is developing first-in-class anti-cancer drugs activating protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A). It has developed proprietary tools and a unique understanding of PP2A which allows it to therapeutically reactivate PP2A, a critical enzyme regulating protein de-phosphorylation and tumor growth, with the potential to create a new class of anti-cancer drugs. Rappta has a strong scientific, management and commercial team. Its scientific team, led by CSO and co-founder, Professor Goutham Narla, Division Chief of Genetic Medicine at the University of Michigan, represents world-leading expertise in PP2A. The team is supported by a Scientific Advisory Board led by Dr. William Hahn, Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and the Chief Operating Officer of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a Clinical Advisory Board lead by Dr. Mathew Galsky, Professor of Medicine and Director of Genitourinary Medical Oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The Company is backed by blue-chip investors Advent Life Sciences, Novartis Bioventures, Novo Holdings and a family office. For more information, go to www.rappta-therapeutics.com.
Reversible phosphorylation is a fundamental mechanism controlling all cell signaling and communication and this process is regulated through the opposing actions of phosphatases (which remove phosphate groups from proteins) and kinases (which add phosphate groups to proteins). Altered cellular signaling as a result of protein hyperphosphorylation, results in the sustained growth of malignant cells and is a hallmark of human cancer development and progression.
Protein Phosphatase 2A (PP2A) is a serine/threonine phosphatase that functions as a tumor suppressor by negatively regulating multiple oncogenic signaling pathways responsible for driving cancer progression. PP2A is made up of three subunits, that form a complete and active enzyme when bound together. The active enzyme is comprised of a scaffolding subunit (A), serving as the structural platform for the assembly of the catalytic (C) subunit and one substrate directing regulatory (B) subunit. In cancer, the tumor-suppressive activity of PP2A is often disrupted as a result of the inability of the three subunits to bind together correctly, rendering the PP2A enzyme inactive. This inactivation of PP2A, leads to increased oncogenic signaling, driving cancer progression and growth. Therefore, the reactivation of PP2A affords a unique therapeutic strategy to restore PP2A activity and cellular homeostasis, that can be used for the treatment of cancer and a broad range of other diseases.