07 Dec Vyriad Appoints Alvin E. McQuinn to Board of Directors
ROCHESTER, Minn., December 7, 2016 — Vyriad Inc. announced today the appointment of Alvin E. McQuinn to the company’s Board of Directors.
“We are delighted to welcome Al to Vyriad’s board as we build our business and develop our oncolytic viruses as the next generation of precision medicines for cancer therapy,” said Stephen Russell, MD, PhD, CEO of Vyriad. “Al and his wife, Mary Agnes, share our vision and passion for making a difference for cancer patients—their philanthropy has supported oncolytic virotherapy research at Mayo Clinic Department of Molecular Medicine since its earliest days more than 10 years ago. Al was also the lead investor in Magnis Therapeutics, an oncolytic measles virus therapy company that was established in 2014, and subsequently merged into Vyriad in 2016.* We look forward to leveraging Al’s substantial experience and insights into building and growing companies with innovative technology.”
“I am excited to join the team at Vyriad at this pivotal time, as the company applies its novel technologies to generate a pipeline of first-in-class oncolytic virotherapy candidates,” said Mr. McQuinn. “Vyriad’s novel oncolytic virus platforms offer significant opportunities to bring transformative treatments to cancer patients. I’m pleased to join Vyriad at this time of great momentum.”
Mr. McQuinn is Chairman and CEO of QuinStar Investment Partners. Previously, he founded Ag-Chem Equipment Company in 1963 and served as its Board Chairman and CEO. Mr. McQuinn grew Ag-Chem into a NASDAQ-listed creator, manufacturer, and marketer of equipment and data management systems for satellite-guided application of fertilizers and farm chemicals. The company revolutionized crop farming and grew rapidly to more than 1,700 employees generating more than $300 million in annual sales. In 2001, Ag-Chem was purchased by AGCO Corporation, which provides high-tech solutions to farmers worldwide. Mr. McQuinn received the Siteliner Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 for his efforts in the development of site-specific farming in precision agriculture, and he is the named inventor on six patents in that area. His other recognitions include the John F. Cade Award for Entrepreneur of the Year, the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Award in the Master Category for Minnesota and the Dakotas, the University of Minnesota’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Precision Agriculture, and induction into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Board of Trustees for the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota and serves on the Minneapolis-St. Paul Leadership Council of Mayo Clinic Rochester. Mr. McQuinn graduated from the University of Missouri in 1954 with a BSc in Agricultural Economics. While attending the University, he earned an ROTC commission as an officer in the U.S. Army. He served four years, attended flight school, and completed service with 1,500 hours of pilot in command. During his civilian business career, he used airplanes with great advantage to build his business.
During his civilian business career, he used airplanes with great advantage to build his business.
Stephen Russell, M.D., PhD, commented, “Al is a visionary businessman, a great friend and a generous philanthropist who has supported oncolytic virotherapy research at Mayo Clinic Department of Molecular Medicine for more than a decade. We are delighted and honored to have Al join the board of Vyriad as we develop this new generation of precision medicines for cancer therapy.”
The McQuinns and Oncolytic Virotherapy
Mr. McQuinn and his wife, Mary Agnes, first came across the concept of using replication-competent viruses as anti-cancer drugs when they met with Drs Russell and Peng at Mayo Clinic. They were very excited by the promise of this new cancer treatment modality and immediately decided to direct a significant part of their philanthropic giving towards the oncolytic virotherapy research program at Mayo Clinic.. Since that time, Al and Mary Agnes have remained fully engaged with this growing program, helping to nurture it through the so-called “Valley of Death,” by supporting vital translational activities that are difficult to finance through conventional grant award mechanisms. For example, the manufacture of clinical grade viruses, and the formal pharmacology/toxicology studies that were needed to gain FDA approval for clinical testing in human subjects. Importantly, with the long term committed support of Al and Mary Agnes McQuinn, oncolytic measles viruses and vesicular stomatitis viruses have been advanced to clinical testing in numerous Phase I indications in Mayo Clinic investigator-sponsored trials.
The Star Tribune headline that captured the world’s interest and imagination
Eventually, the long hard path to clinical testing bore fruit. Initially, responses were seen in patients with relapsed ovarian cancer, and patients treated at higher dose levels had longer survival. But the most dramatic response was seen in a 49 year old woman with drug resistant myeloma. Stacy Erholtz of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota had had multiple myeloma for more than 10 years and was rapidly relapsing only 8 months after her second stem cell transplant. She was out of conventional therapy options. With a rapidly growing tumor on her forehead, multiple tumors elsewhere in her body and diffuse myeloma cell infiltration in her bone marrow, she elected to enroll in a measles clinical protocol and received one intravenous dose of the Vyriad agent, MV-NIS. The response was dramatic. As reported in Russell et al. 2014 Mayo Clinic Proceedings within days Stacy noticed that the tumor on her forehead (which her children had named Evan) had started to shrink. Subsequent PET scans indicated that all of her tumors resolved, and her bone marrow cleared of myeloma. As noted in an editorial by leading virotherapy scientist Dr. John Bell of Ottawa Health Research Institute, “Many have been tried in humans but no one has shown this type of systemic activity [seen in the Mayo study]”. The Star Tribune captured this historic event in an aptly headlined front page news story: “Mayo Clinic Trial: Massive Blast of Measles Vaccine Wipes Out Cancer:
But, aside from this being the first ever clinical demonstration of an intravenously administered virus eliminating disseminated cancer, there was another aspect to the story that was equally extraordinary (“Serendipity,”). When the McQuinns heard of patient 11.2’s remarkable response to the MV-NIS virus, they were delighted. But imagine their surprise when they discovered that patient 11.2 was Stacy Erholtz, a longtime acquaintance and family friend! (read the remarkable story here: “Serendipity: Where Science meets the Inexplicable, Lives the Extraordinary”)
Paying it Forward-Coming Full Circle
Al and Mary Agnes McQuinn have been generous supporters of education (St. Thomas University—Al’s alma mater), arts (The Silver Art collection at Minneapolis Institute of Arts) and scientific research. They also have supported oncolytic virotherapy research at Mayo Clinic Department of Molecular Medicine for more than a decade, helping to nurture it through the so-called “Valley of Death,” by supporting vital translational activities that are difficult to finance through conventional grant award mechanisms. Remarkably, the happily retired octogenarian continues to energize the people he meets, remains very interested in healthcare science and technology, and still actively trades when the stock market bell rings. He was the lead investor in Magnis Therapeutics, Vyriad’s predecessor measles virus company, demonstrating his faith and desire to advance this promising technology toward commercial success. By joining the Vyriad Board of Directors Al now brings the story full circle, from his support of a risky academic research endeavor, through the extraordinary events surrounding Stacy’s clinical response, to this exciting next step of technology commercialization. We look forward to working with Al to realize our shared dream over the next 5 years.