Local resident oversees potential COVID-19 pneumonia treatment
As chairman and CEO of CalciMedica, Rachel Leheny is overseeing the development of a potential treatment for organ damage caused by COVID-19 pneumonia.
“Our lead compound Auxora is in clinical development in COVID-19 pneumonia,” said Leheny, who recently moved to La Jolla from Rancho Santa Fe. “And we also have data from a pancreatitis study that we’ve done. The drug is targeted at acute inflammatory diseases, and we’re going to be moving into a blinded, sort of registration study for COVID-19 pneumonia.”
In April, the FDA granted permission for the company to proceed with its study on Auxora for patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia who are at risk for progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome
“The FDA’s quick decision to allow CalciMedica to proceed with dosing of COVID-19 patients underscores the potential of CM4620-IE (later named Aurora) to benefit these patients,” Sudarsha Hebber, CalciMedica’s chief medical officer, said in a statement in April.
The statement continued, “Patient safety is key for us as we rapidly evaluate CM4620-IE in patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. Due to the fast-acting nature of the drug, it may quickly lessen the cytokine storm associated with COVID-19 and may stabilize the pulmonary endothelial capillary barrier and prevent more serious lung injury.”
Charles A. Bruen, a critical care and emergency physician at Regions Hospital in Minnesota, where a Phase 2 clinical study was set to take place, added in a statement that “there is a dire need for a fast-acting, potent treatment for patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.”
Leheny, who has lived in North County for about 17 years, has been CEO of CalciMedica since December.
“I’ve been in biotech in one form or another for 25 years,” she said.
Leheny received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Harvard, followed by a Ph.D. in chemistry from Columbia and postdoctoral research in chemistry at UC Berkeley.
Previous posts she’s held include head of biotechnology research at the now defunct financial firm Lehman Brothers, as well as founder and managing director of Caxton Advantage Life Sciences, a life science venture capital firm.
Leheny is also a founder of the Clearity Foundation, which provides support for women who have ovarian cancer. Through its newest program, Steps Through OC, patients receive six months of personalized psychosocial counseling from certified ovarian cancer counselors.
“You’re trying to help people dealing with very critical illnesses,” Leheny said of the commonality between her work with CalciMedica and the Clearity Foundation.
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