Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Vague endows Penn immunotherapy chair

Consumer marketing mogul Richard W. Vague endows Dr. Carl June's Immunotherapy professorship

Vague endows Penn immunotherapy chair

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(Adds Vague comments) Richard W. Vague, the former credit card mogul (First USA Bank; Barclaycard USA) who sold his University City company, EnergyPlus, to NRG Corp. for $190 million last year, has endowed a Professorship in Immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Carl H. June will be named to the post at a ceremony at Penn's Simlow Center for Translational Research on Dec. 5.

Vague says he's supporting June's promising immunotherapy, which alters the DNA of T-cells that attack disease. He says the treatment, which patients find difficult and debilitating, works in a period of weeks on healthy patients, and left three adult leukemia sufferers and a Harrisburg-area girl "cancer-free" after a year.

June's group hopes to match that success with a larger trial of pancreatic cancer patients, who are typically more resistant to treatment than leukemia patients.  Novartis beat out two rival drugmakers for the right to invest $20 million in Penn and June's "ultra-personalized therapy" in August.

Vague told me he agreed to back June after reviewing June's early results with biotech investor Brian Dovey, head of Philadelphia- and San Diego-based Domain Associates; with member of the biotech group at Morgan Stanley; and leaders of Philadelphia's Wistar Institute. All warned him that biotech cancer treatments are often promising in their early stages but can't be reproduced to scale; and that investment returns can take decades. So Vague made a contribution, hoping for social returns.

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PhillyDeals posts drafts, transcripts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area business, which he's been writing since 1989.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn and taught writing at St. Joseph's. He has written thousands of columns and articles for the Inquirer, Bloomberg and other media, wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

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Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

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