May 24, 2023

Episode 4: Making the Leap from Academia to Blazing His Own Trail in Biotech in Pursuit of Novel Cancer Treatments

What do Magic Johnson, the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, and a molecule have in common? They each played an unexpected role in changing the course of our next guest, Stanley Lewis, CEO and founder of San Diego-based A28 Therapeutics, on his path toward finding a novel treatment for cancer and advocating for patient diversity in clinical trials.

On this episode of LifeLines, Stanley speaks about his journey from academia to blazing his own trail in biotech and founding his own company. As a physician, Stanley specialized in treating HIV patients and helped lead the development of a new HIV drug for a large company. This got the attention of Magic Johnson’s doctor, who recruited him to join Tai Med Biologics. Stanley never imagined he would one day be a biotech founder: an interview for a CMO position at a company that was retooling a molecule to treat cancer led him to San Diego. This meeting resulted in him purchasing the rights to the asset instead, establishing A28 Therapeutics. Stanley says it was “off to the races” from that point. “There’s really no blueprint for what you’re about to undertake. This is not for the faint of heart.”

A28 Therapeutics developed a targeted oncolytic peptide platform to treat multiple types of cancers, including ovarian cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma. A28 Therapeutics’ lead compound, AT-101—which is in its Phase 2 clinical trial—could potentially kill cancer cells much like how a vaccine treats infectious diseases, Stanley says. The company’s goal is to find a treatment for cancer that doesn’t cause the side effects often experienced with chemotherapy.

Stanley is also passionate about advocating for patient diversity in clinical trials, and he shares the news about a nonprofit he co-founded, CARER, that monitors data on patient enrollment in clinical trials. CARER was born from an idea shared by a colleague who attended Biocom California’s inaugural Black Biotech Trailblazers panel, where Stanley was a guest speaker. She approached him after the event, and their discussion on addressing diversity issues in the life science industry led to the creation of the nonprofit.

You can follow Stanley Lewis and A28 Therapeutics on LinkedIn.

Interested in becoming a member or joining us on the LifeLines podcast? Email [email protected].

Host: Bob McGriff
Executive Producer: Marie Tutko
Senior Producer: Vincenzo Tarantino
Associate Producer: Lauren Panetta
Program & Research Coordinator: Katy Burgess
Transcripts By: Jessica Schneider
Senior Director of Marketing: Heather Ramsay
Graphic Design By: Raquel Papike