Exciting Updates from Mission: Cure

Meet the New Face of Science at Mission: Cure

Meet Lola Rahib, Ph.D. Lola recently joined Mission: Cure as vice president of translational research to move our “cure strategy” forward. Lola has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, expertise in pancreatic cancer, and a commitment to improving patients’ lives. 

“I am impressed by how much Mission: Cure has accomplished in its first four years and I’m thrilled to join an organization leading the way toward rapid therapeutic advancements and ultimately a cure for pancreatitis.” 

Most recently, Lola served as director and lead scientist of GI cancers at Cancer Commons. She also worked as a researcher at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  She lives in Los Angeles, California with her dog Buddy.

Our Cure Strategy

In our first 4 years, Mission: Cure has launched or identified 43 research projects working to improve the lives of chronic and recurrent acute pancreatitis patients.

This is part of our strategy to take “multiple shots on goal”: instead of focusing on a single gene or drug, we are pursuing many different approaches in our search for a cure. We even support projects that are competing with each other in the drug development market because we want to maximize the chance that we will find one or more therapies that improve patients’ lives.

Leveraging Vice President Lola Rahib’s experience and science background, we have rigorously analyzed the 43 projects and outlined the following priorities:

  • Available Therapies: Therapies that are ready to be used in the clinic, including therapies that are in clinical trials and drugs that are ready to go into clinical trials (also called investigational therapies) can get to patients the fastest.
  • Genetic Targets: Projects that address genetic mutations that cause pancreatitis are of high priority to us, as they could benefit over 40% of patients.
  • Support & Funding: We are advocating with and providing support for life sciences companies that have funding to develop pancreatitis therapies to move their programs forward. We are also utilizing our network to ensure all high-priority projects get the support and funding they need.

Aside from targeting known genetic mutations, we are tracking drug development efforts aimed at fibrosisinflammation, and other disease modifiers. We are also tracking 11 projects that address quality of life and symptom control, including nutritiondiabetes, and pain.

Mission: Cure is working to ensure that priority projects move forward. We will regularly review and adjust our priorities. And we are always on the lookout for new possible therapies for pancreatitis patients, so this is a dynamic portfolio.
We will not rest until all patients can be treated. 

If you have questions about our “cure strategy,” please feel free to email Lola Rahib at lrahib@mission-cure.org.

What does Mission: Cure do for These Projects?

  • We relentlessly advocate for patients’ need for a cure to all stakeholders in the drug development process, including biotech and life sciences companies, academic medical centers, government funders and regulators, and investors
  • We pitch pharma and researchers to develop pancreatitis therapies, providing information about the need, the commercial benefit, the science, and potential clinical trial sites and partners
  • We recruit patients, get patient input, and communicate patient needs to drug developers, researchers, and funders
  • We are not yet big enough to fund these research projects, so we do what we can to help projects in need of funding apply for government and foundation funds and secure investments
  • We gently but persistently nudge life sciences companies and researchers to move therapies forward expeditiously, reminding them of the immense suffering pancreatitis causes

Impact Investing for a Cure

Mission Cure Capital (MCC) is an impact investing company that invests in high impact, commercially-promising treatments for pancreatitis and its symptoms. It is a completely separate entity from Mission: Cure but is mission-aligned in its focus on finding effective therapies for recurrent acute and chronic pancreatitis.

MCC’s lead investor, Frank Kuipers, is a successful entrepreneur, business leader, and a chronic pancreatitis patient himself. Like a growing number of investors, Frank wanted to use his investment to improve the lives of those with pancreatitis in addition to producing financial returns. 

Mission: Cure believes that investors like Frank can play an important role in developing therapies that otherwise might not make it out of a lab.

MCC has made five investments with innovative biotech companies and academic research centers working on pancreatitis therapy development, with several others under consideration. MCC is always seeking opportunities to invest in innovative approaches to treating pancreatitis and to meet people interested in learning more about impact investing.

One of MCC’s investments is in Path BioAnalytics (PBA), a biotech company using samples of cells from patients’ noses to identify drugs that will correct the problems in the pancreas caused by mutations in the CFTR gene. CFTR gene mutations are the most common genetic cause of chronic pancreatitis.

PBA was featured in our webinar series along with another promising investment that may one day cure diabetes. Watch it here.

Access to Health Data

As part of the CZI Rare As One network, Mission: Cure now has access to the Komodo Health database, which combines data from health insurers for over 300 million patients in the US. We will use this information to determine how many people are actually diagnosed with pancreatitis, where they are treated, and what tests, medications, and procedures they receive.

We have started to explore the platform and found 248,339 patients were diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis  in 2019, and 39,331 of those (16%) were diagnosed with alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis. We are reviewing the data with our advisors and will perform additional analysis over the summer. We now have a list of providers who serve pancreatitis patients, which we can use in our efforts to improve the standard of care.

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