Helen Sabzevari, PhD, of Precigen Connects Cancer and the Immune System on “Close to the Edge”

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Helen Sabzevari, PhD, president and CEO of cell and gene therapy developer Precigen, began her study of biology as a high school student in Iran, and continued her education in the U.S. after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

On Episode 12 of “Close to the Edge,” Sabzevari recounts her life and career, which has seen her advance from a postdoc at Scripps Research Institute, to a researcher at the NIH’s National Cancer Institute, to positions at Merck & Co. and Compass Therapeutics before joining Precigen as it refocused on drug development.

As Precigen rebranded from Intrexon, it tapped its head of R&D Sabzevari to run the company. Precigen has since grown its pipeline to seven clinical-phase and nine preclinical cell and gene therapy candidates focused on cancer, as well as autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases, notably chronic Hepatitis B.

Sabzevari shares her perspective on the key challenges to cancer drug development, especially in immuno-oncology, and how Precigen has sought to address those challenges. Among challenges she discusses are those of manufacturing product and containing costs.

The company recently shared positive news on the clinical progress of five pipeline candidates. Three were developed using Precigen’s Ultra-CAR-T platform: PRGN-3005 being developed for advanced, recurrent platinum resistant ovarian cancer; PRGN-3006 for relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia; and PRGN-3007, for which the FDA has cleared IND application to launch a Phase I/Ib open-label trial in advanced ROR1+ hematological and solid tumors.

The other two promising candidates are off-the-shelf immunotherapies developed using Precigen’s AdenoVerse platform, including PRGN-2009 in recurrent or metastatic human papilloma virus (HPV)-associated cancer, and PRGN-2012, which is directed against cells infected with HPV 6 or HPV 11 for treatment of recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP).

Sabzevari concludes the wide-ranging conversation assessing the major goals and hopes she and Precigen have for the next five to 10 years.

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