Rigel Pharma (RIGL) Appoints Two R&D Execs

October 7, 2016 7:33 AM EDT

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Rigel Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: RIGL) announced the appointment of two company veterans to leadership roles that will impact Rigel's newly refocused small molecule R&D effort targeting immunology and oncology diseases. Esteban Masuda, Ph.D., who has made significant contributions to Rigel's research programs for 18 years, has been named Senior Vice President, Research. Joseph Lasaga, who formerly held roles in both research and business development at Rigel, rejoins the company as Vice President, Business Development and Alliance Management.

"We are very fortunate to have the experience and talent of these two professionals moving Rigel's pipeline and partnership efforts forward," said Raul Rodriguez, CEO of Rigel. "We are confident that Esteban and Joe will help Rigel realize the full potential of our drug discovery strengths, and to advance selected programs to build our pipeline."

The company recently restructured its research area to focus on immunology and oncology, with a team that maintains the full complement of capabilities necessary for productive drug discovery. From this effort, Rigel expects to file an investigational new drug application (IND) with the FDA for its first IRAK inhibitor in 2017. IRAKs are key components in the signal transduction pathways associated with inflammation. Rigel has identified IRAK1/4 inhibitors that are potent regulators of the inflammatory signal mediated by the Toll-like receptors and Interleukin-1 family of cytokines. Rigel's IRAK1/4 inhibitors may be valuable therapeutic tools to treat cytokine-driven autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as gout or lupus, as well as various hematological malignancies.

Esteban S. Masuda, Ph.D. Dr. Masuda most recently held the title of Senior Vice President, Immunology at Rigel. He has worked on and led numerous drug discovery projects in inflammatory and allergic diseases, and served as the first project leader for fostamatinib, which led to the discovery of that compound. His work has resulted in moving several product candidates into clinical development; various corporate partnerships; 57 publications; and 49 U.S. issued patents. Prior to joining Rigel, Dr. Masuda spent seven years at DNAX Research Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology in cytokine biology. He received a B.S. in biochemistry from University of California, Riverside and a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Hiroshima University, Japan.

Joseph LasagaMr. Lasaga returns to Rigel from his role as Vice President, Business Development and Alliance Management at Galena Biopharma, Inc., where he was responsible for managing corporate and business development strategy and activities. From 2010 until 2014, Mr. Lasaga was Director, and later named Senior Director, Business Development at Nektar Therapeutics, where he led licensing activities, managed key alliances and structured research collaborations. He began his career at Rigel working in research before moving into business development, most recently as Associate Director. In that role, he served as the alliance manager for all of Rigel's partners, was an integral member of the negotiating team for Rigel's out-licensing of fostamatinib to AstraZeneca in 2010, and managed all other aspects of business development. Mr. Lasaga graduated from San Jose State University with a B.S. in Molecular Biology and earned his M.B.A. in Marketing from San Francisco State University.

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