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America's Most Promising Start-ups

A New Way to Make Cancer Drugs

The founders of Baltimore-based biotech startup Gliknik first met on the sidelines of their children's lacrosse games in 2005. Two years later, David Block, former head of international operations at DuPont Pharmaceuticals, and Dr. Scott Strome, who runs head and neck surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, set to work creating new classes of drugs to treat cancer and autoimmune disorders that they say are cheaper and easier to produce than anything on the market. By engineering laboratory-made versions of drugs instead of relying on blood donors, the five-employee business is pioneering new treatments that strengthen the body's immune system to fight against a range of diseases. Gliknik's drug for autoimmune diseases, for example, has been used in animals to successfully treat rheumatoid arthritis. Now, two of Gliknik’s drugs are in human clinical trials, and two more are in the works. Such drugs normally take up to 15 years to be approved for human use, and Block says Gliknik's drugs will be on the market in seven years. Once the drugs do gain approval, he plans to license them to major pharmaceutical companies, though he doesn't expect to generate revenue for another decade. Until then, Gliknik will rely on external investors, from which it has so far raised $4 million.