Q: What is the general mission of Cell Signaling Technology, Inc.?
James Cullem: Cell Signaling Technology, Inc. is a family-owned, private company encompassing more than 400 employees globally. The company has grown over the last decade to become the recognized worldwide leader in the development of innovative and high-quality reagents for studying cellular signaling pathways, and their defects that underlie most cancers and other diseases. The company has also developed proprietary discovery technologies that have impacted on the drug development and diagnostics fields, including identification of novel diagnostic biomarkers and drug targets.
Q: When was Cell Signaling Technology founded?
James Cullem: Cell Signaling Technology was launched in 1999 as a spin-out of New England Biolabs, Inc. (Ipswich, MA) by scientists interested and focused in tumor biology and developing better reagents for its study. The two companies, sharing family co-ownership, still have a close business relationship, although their areas of product focus are distinct.
Q: Were the company’s patent efforts primarily focused in the United States?
James Cullem: No, our efforts were global to cover our core markets, and I was responsible for developing, managing, and enforcing those patents in a number of foreign countries. Like many life sciences companies, the U.S. is the most important single commercial market, but places with robust economies and strong life sciences markets, like Japan, Europe, Canada, and Australia, are substantially important as well. So our patent focus typically tracked those major markets as well.
Q: What are some specific examples of crucial patents you obtained for Cell Signaling Technology?
James Cullem: A first example was the portfolio we obtained covering a powerful and novel class of proprietary antibodies we developed and commercialized called “Motif-Specific and Context-Independent Antibodies.” A second example was the highly valuable and novel global phospho-profiling methodology we developed called PhosphoScan(R). Both technologies have greatly impacted on the commercial success and growth of the company, as well as helping advance our understanding of tumor biology and how to diagnose and treat diseases like cancer.
Q: What do these patents and technologies mean for Cell Signaling Technology’s overall mission?
James Cullem: They underscore the company’s leadership and commitment to improving human health, particularly in the area of personalized medicine for cancer care. For our industry to advance in the fields of predictive diagnostics and personalized medicine, it’s critical to understand the molecular defects that are driving life-threatening diseases such as cancer. These defects occur, not only at the genetic level, but at the proteomic level, where changes in the activity of key cellular molecules directly leads to dis-regulated cell growth and survival, leading to cancer. The powerful and proven technologies that the company has introduced, both during my tenure there and more recently, will lead to greater comprehension of these disease process and improves in making personalized medicine a reality.
Q: What do you envision may be future areas of growth for the company?
James Cullem: I expect the company will continue to be an innovator in its core research reagent business as well as improving and expanding proteomic discovery technologies. It has always had a very robust, internal tumor biology and discovery group, the activities of which have led, in the past, to important advances in biomarkers and drug targets that are now beginning to have impact on patients in the clinic. These contributions will no doubt continue. I expect that the company will eventually become more active in advancing some of the early-stage therapeutic candidates that it will identify based on the underlying tumor biology discoveries that it makes. No doubt these will need to be in partnership with larger, more well-funded and savvy drug companies. We have much, much more to learn about cancer, not to mention other diseases impacted by cellular signaling changes, so the future remains bright for the company.