Persistence Pays Off

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-05-01-2022, Volume 42, Issue 5

An entrepreneurial quest to transform oncology treatment.

Not all careers in biotech begin at the same place and follow the same path. For Matthew R. Price, a co-founder of Promontory Therapeutics, who serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer, and as a board director, his journey began in the performing arts. While there may not be a larger gap between two industries than biotech and the arts, Price was able to connect the dots and climb his way up the ladder.

Now at the head of Promontory Therapeutics, a biotech specializing in developing novel, immunogenic small molecule anti-cancer agents, Price is drawing on his multifaceted background to create a new path forward in oncology therapeutics.

After studying history at Princeton University, Price moved to Berlin where he continued his studies, this time in music. Several years later, he returned to New York as a music producer, working on international deals and premiering performances. “I realized I was acting as an entrepreneur, I just was in a setting that didn’t necessarily expect that of people,” he says.

With an opportunity to change his career path, Price attended Columbia Business School where he earned his MBA and realized his future was in intellectual property–driven business and, ultimately, biotech.

“I had a social motivation,” Price explains. “I needed to find a career that I loved, that would also potentially allow me to do good in the world. And biotech just crystallized as the place for me and the path for me.”

While attending Columbia, Price met Promontory Therapeutics’ fellow co-founder and now-CEO, Robert Fallon, who was teaching international banking. Price recalls they connected instantly and were having regular meetings about his career path. In the midst of the Great Recession, these meetings turned into starting a company together in 2010, originally named Phosplatin Therapeutics. Just this month, the company was renamed Promontory Therapeutics to reflect its growth and outlook on the future. “We spent all of our time early on doing due diligence on the technology and assembling a team of experts around us, knowing that there was a lot that we didn’t know,” Price recalls. “So, we were humble, but persistent.”

This persistence has included years now of studying the rapidly evolving science and medicine in the field of oncology therapeutics, including Price’s intimate involvement in the company’s R&D efforts, and his participation in presentations of Promontory’s research data at industry events such as American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meetings.

Promontory Therapeutics currently has an internal team of 20 people that Price and Fallon have assembled over the years. Price wears many hats in his role. Since day one, he has overseen the organization’s operations, which have now expanded into 17 countries.

Price explains that his range of responsibilities can mean different things on different days. One day he might be doing a site- initiation visit with one of the company’s clinical trial sites or be in an investigator meeting with key opinion leaders regarding clinical strategy. Another day, he might be focused on finance and helping to lead each of the organization’s funding rounds—Promontory Therapeutics has raised $74 million to date.

Price has played a key role in the management of PT-112, Promontory Therapeutics’ lead therapeutic agent, which is currently in Phase II development. This has included co-authorship on several publications on PT-112, and being named on two of the company’s proprietary patents. The small molecule immunogenic cell death inducer was originally licensed from Ohio University and validated with the help of Weill Cornell Medicine researcher Lorenzo Galluzzi, PhD. This agent can selectively kill cancer cells in a manner that engages the immune system and creates an adaptive immune response. It does this by releasing biological entities from the dying cancer cell that engage with pattern recognition receptors on dendritic cells.

PT-112 is being tested for a number of cancers, including metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer, which is currently Promontory Therapeutics’ largest Phase II study with 90 patients. It also is being tested as a therapy for thymoma, cancer of the thymus, in a study run by the National Cancer Institute, as well as in non-small cell lung cancer.

During the development journey of PT-112, Price has been responsible for the company’s collaborations with Pfizer, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and the National Cancer Institute. These collaborations serve as a major point of validation for a small emerging biotech.

Price recalls one of the most defining moments of this journey was when Promontory Therapeutics saw the first response of a cancer patient to their drug. “When that happened, we were emotional,” he says. “We were just stunned that we could have brought something into the world that can accomplish that even for one person. Now, thankfully, it’s more than one.”

Outside of his work, Price is a loving husband and father to a baby girl. There was a time when he would go skiing and surfing as often as he could, but like many, the world of COVID-19 has disrupted that part of his life. “Generally, with COVID and the last couple years, and life as an entrepreneur, it’s intense, and I think professional life defines us perhaps too much in the end,” he says.

He counters this by getting away from the hustle and bustle of New York City and spending time with his wife in upstate New York visiting family and friends. “The picture I see is having two babies—one a company, and the other a baby daughter—and there’s no end to the demands, but also the joy,” Price tells Pharm Exec. “[That] makes it all worthwhile and makes me very proud, and even humbled to be in this industry.”

Andy Studna is Pharm Exec's Associate Editor. He can be reached at astudna@mjhlifesciences.com.