Sialix Inc., a company looking to develop cancer and inflammatory disease treatments based on research conducted at the University of California San Diego, is opening an office in Kendall Square and announcing an option agreement with Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biotechnology company also located in the Kendall Square neighborhood of Cambridge.
The financial details of the agreement between Sialix and Momenta are not being disclosed, said Sialix chief executive Jeff Behrens, who will initially head up a two-person office at Dogpatch Labs, a collaborative workspace in Kendall Square underwritten by Polaris Venture Partners.
Behrens describes Sialix as a “semi-virtual” company. In life sciences, a virtual company model is emerging. In this model, there is “a small core staff that relies on a network of advisors, consultants, and contract research organizations,” he said. In a virtual company, nearly everything is outsourced, from clinical testing to manufacturing.
Sialix is semi-virtual company because the company maintains a small research lab in San Diego, located near founder Ajit Varki, a professor of medicine and cellular and molecular medicine at the University of California San Diego. Two former post-docs from the Varki lab lead the scientific research efforts on the West Coast, Behrens said.
Sialix decided to open what it describes as its corporate headquarters in Cambridge because the Boston area has a “phenomenal concentration of life sciences talent,” ranging from experts and advisors to academics and angel and venture investors, and because the state has demonstrated “terrific support of the industry,” Behrens said.
According to the Sialix website, Behrens joined the company in May, though his appointment was announced in the company’s Thursday press release. His resume includes stints at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Cambridge and the Biogen Idec Innovation Incubator. (Biogen Idec is now based in Weston.) Behrens has an MBA from MIT Sloan and a degree from the joint Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.
Governor Deval Patrick has made a priority of nurturing the life sciences industry in Massachusetts. In a statement, Patrick welcomed the company to the Bay State.
“Massachusetts has invested in innovation and developing our life sciences capabilities in order to lead the world and attract pioneering new companies like Sialix,” Patrick said. “We welcome Sialix and look forward to them continuing their amazing work here in the Commonwealth.”
According to its press release, Sialix is focused on developing therapeutic antibodies against cancer-specific glycan targets. It is advancing two programs: an oncology therapeutic targeting ovarian and other solid tumors, and a prophylactic nutritional supplement to reduce inflammation and the resulting risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.