Career straddles clinical, research roles

CGI Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Career straddles clinical, research roles

February 2, 2004

By Dyke Hendrickson, Mass High Tech, February 2, 2004

If a biotech executive were preparing to approach the Food and Drug Administration with a new drug application, it would be useful for him to be knowledgeable about federal regulation as well as medical science.

Enter Dr. Louis Matis. He is a medical doctor, and also a former physician/researcher with both the FDA and the National Institutes of Health.
As CEO of Cellular Genomics Inc. of Branford, Conn., he appears to be in position to guide his company to FDA approvals when it makes its applications in coming months.

"My background with NIH has been very helpful to me, because our goal at the time was to make sure that research could be translated to clinical practice," Matis said. "It was from bench to bedside. At the FDA, I participated in reviewing applications from other scientists. That experience, too, should be useful as we move forward."

Cellular Genomics is a privately held genomics-based biopharmaceutical company that is developing a chemical genetics platform it hopes will lead to breakthrough drug discoveries. CGI has developed selective lead candidates in cancer, angiogenesis and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The company, which employs 55, recently closed on a series C round of $22.3 million. To date, it has raised close to $55 million.

The recent round was led by Lilly BioVentures, and was joined by new investors Coastview Capital and Emerging Technology Partners, as well as previous investors Connecticut Innovations, Flagship Ventures, MPM Capital and Vector Fund Management.

A native of Woodmere, N.Y., on Long Island, Matis has been preparing for this role for almost three decades. After graduating from medical school in 1975, he completed his clinical training at the University of Chicago hospitals. He was with the NIH from 1977 to 1987, then spent three years with the FDA. During most of that period, he was a clinical physician as well as a research scientist. After his tenure with the federal government, he was senior vice president at Alexion Pharmaceuticals, where he was a key innovator in the development of novel biopharmaceuticals.

Matis joined CGI in 2000, as chief scientific officer and president. In 2001, he was named chief executive officer. Though CGI is still in preclinical trials, company officials say that they could be in human trials in 12 to 18 months. In addition to raising money, Matis has been successful in developing partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies. CGI has established research collaborations with Affymetrix, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Schering AG and Serono SA. It appears that Matis has touched all of the bases in preparation for his role as CEO, though at times he has mixed feelings about leaving his life as a researcher.

"There are times when you miss the excitement of doing the research and publishing a paper in a prestigious journal," said Matis, who is the author of more than 120 papers. "But as CEO, I really love what I am doing. We are working on developing novel, safe drugs that will provide breakthroughs to better treatment. This is a step-by-step process, and we are eager to move forward with the hope we will develop a product that will make a fundamental difference in treatment."