Article Published: November 29, 2016
Article Published: November 29, 2016
Dr. Ron Jankowski, Vice President of Product Development, has been with Cook MyoSite since its founding and has more than 15 years’ experience in translational medical and biologic product development. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, master’s degree in bioengineering, and doctoral degree in bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Jankowski has authored and coauthored numerous peer-reviewed manuscripts, reviews, book chapters, and abstracts involving a wide variety of cellular-based applications. With a focus on bridging research activities with clinicians to identify unmet clinical needs and developing effective therapies, he leads the development programs for current products, evaluates new indications for existing products in development, and investigates the formation of new strategic research partnerships to expand the Cook MyoSite product pipeline. Jankowski also serves as an adjunct assistant professor for the department of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh and, in addition to his research and business activities, is actively involved in community promotion of innovation and entrepreneurism.
TEQ: So Ron, what’s the elevator pitch for Cook MyoSite?
Ron Jankowski: We are investigating using a patient’s own cells and their inherent ability to regenerate tissue to potentially do what most conventional drugs can’t do: address underlying causes of conditions, not just symptoms.
TEQ: We’d love to know more about your cell therapies you’re investigating, and how the clinical trials have been progressing.
RJ: We have been investigating personalized cell therapies, using a person’s own muscle cells as a potential treatment vehicle, for various indications. Although these are in different phases of clinical development, our lead indication is for the potential treatment of stress urinary incontinence (SUI) in women. SUI is urine leakage that occurs when putting pressure (or stress) on the bladder, such as when coughing, laughing, sneezing, performing physical activity, etc. Right now, we’re getting ready to conclude our second Phase III clinical trial for this indication in early 2017. This is a great opportunity to help patients with a debilitating condition for which there are no approved drugs. For anyone looking for more information on our trials, they can visit our website or go to clinicaltrials.gov.
TEQ: Starting and growing a life sciences company takes patience, grit and large doses of tenacity! What has the journey been like building a company for this long? What are some of the key lessons?
RJ: Any time that you are going down the drug development pathway, you know that it will take time to reach the goal of regulatory approval to get your product on the market. It’s a challenging process for well-established companies, let alone startups that also have to do the work of building a company and all of the other infrastructure in the background. We’re also trying to do it in a space (cell therapy) that is still evolving from a regulatory perspective, and also developing its identity and credibility in the medical community. So, definitely patience, grit and tenacity are needed, but we have also been fortunate to have the backing of our parent company (Cook Group) who has supported us throughout this process. It may not happen quickly but, in the end, good science will always provide an opportunity for success.
TEQ: What works and what doesn’t work when it comes to building a company like Cook MyoSite in Pittsburgh?
RJ: Recruiting talent in the biopharmaceutical space can be challenging, because there really are no large “anchor” companies in this sector in the Pittsburgh area. But Pittsburgh has a lot to offer in terms of livability, so that’s a positive recruitment tool.
TEQ: What’s your “WHY”? (What gets ya out of bed every morning?)
RJ: Knowing that there is still a tremendous amount of opportunity to provide useful treatments for patients, to further personalized therapies, to build a sustainable business, and to do it here in Pittsburgh.