Companies That Focus on the Genetic Drivers of Cancer

Serving as CEO of Treeline Biosciences, and formerly as CEO at Loxo Oncology at Lilly, Dr. Josh Bilenker is a biotechnology executive who successfully developed a range of oncology-focused therapeutics that make a difference in patients’ lives. Dr. Josh Bilenker appeared on a podcast of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, discussing “The Risks and Life-Saving Rewards of Biopharmaceutical Investment.”

At Loxo Oncology, he isolated specific genes that went wrong within the cancer cell and led to tumors in many sites of the body. Loxo’s first drug to receive U.S. FDA approval was among the first to be approved on a “tissue agnostic” basis. In other words, the medicine was approved for use in patients with advanced cancers that harbored a common abnormal gene, instead of a population definition that mentioned the tumor site of origin (e.g. lung, breast, colon, etc.). As a result of this approach, only certain small subsets of patients with each cancer type are appropriate for Loxo’s medicines.

A second Loxo drug is FDA approved for use in certain subsets of thyroid and lung cancer cases. Its use is confined to subsets where the specific gene-targeted has gone awry as with the other approved medication. They both work by inhibiting RET kinase, a protein that has a signaling role within the cell.

Loxo Oncology was acquired by Eli Lilly in 2019 and became an independent subsidiary of Lilly. Dr. Bilenker worked at Eli Lilly until early 2021. In April 2021, he co-founded a new biotech company called Treeline Biosciences with co-founder Jeff Engelman, M.D., Ph.D. Treeline Biosciences is based in Watertown, MA, San Diego, CA and Stamford, CT.