Press Releases

Plexxikon Co-Founder Joseph Schlessinger, Ph.D., Awarded 2010 Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research

Berkeley, CA and Washington, DC—April 19, 2010

Joseph Schlessinger, Ph.D., co-founder and chairman of the board of Plexxikon, and professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology at Yale University School of Medicine, has been awarded the 2010 Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research. The prize was given to Dr. Schlessinger for his work in elucidating the mechanism of action of receptor tyrosine kinases and their intracellular signaling pathways.

The award, established in 1998, recognizes a “scientist of international reknown who has made a major scientific discovery in basic or translational cancer research.” Dr. Schlessinger’s work has provided fundamental insights into the mechanisms of action and activation of tyrosine kinases that became the basis for the discovery and development of a new family of targeted medicines to treat cancer, such as Sutent® for the treatment of renal cancer and gastrointestinal stromal tumors, and PLX4032, Plexxikon’s BRAF-targeted medicine now in Phase 2 and 3 trials for melanoma.

“We would like to congratulate Yossi for receiving this prestigious award and for his significant contributions to the field of tyrosine kinase signaling research,” said Peter Hirth, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Plexxikon. “Over a career spanning three decades, his pioneering work has informed the development of novel drugs that are providing real benefit to a very large number of patients worldwide.”

As the winner of the award, Dr. Schlessinger will present a lecture entitled “Cell signaling by receptor tyrosine kinases: from basic principles to cancer therapy” during the AACR 101st Annual Meeting 2010 on Monday, April 19th from 5 to 6 pm, ET, in Ballroom C of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. He will also be awarded a prize of 75,000 euros or approximately $100,000.

Prior to his appointment at Yale, Dr. Schlessinger was professor and chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at New York University (NYU) Medical Center, and the director of the Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine at NYU. He was a co-founder of SUGEN in 1991 and Plexxikon in 2000. His seminal publication in 1997 in Science, together with Dr. Hirth and other colleagues, “Structures of the Tyrosine Kinase Domain of Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor in Complex with Inhibitors,” elucidated the binding of a kinase inhibitor with its drug target in a co-structure. This research led to one of the key foundational concepts of Plexxikon’s discovery platform for kinase inhibitors. More recently, Dr. Schlessinger founded Kolltan Pharmaceuticals in 2007.


About Plexxikon
Plexxikon is a leader in the structure-guided discovery and development of novel small molecule pharmaceuticals to treat human disease. The company’s lead compound, PLX4032, is in late-stage clinical trials for the treatment of melanoma and colorectal cancer. Other clinical-stage compounds include PLX5568 for the treatment of polycystic kidney disease, PLX204 for the treatment of diabetes and PLX3397 for the treatment of metastatic cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Among the company’s preclinical development programs, candidates are being developed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases as well as for the treatment of other cancers.

Plexxikon’s proprietary Scaffold-Based Drug Discovery™ platform integrates multiple state-of-the-art technologies, including structural screening as one key component that provides a significant competitive advantage over other drug discovery approaches. The company has discovered a portfolio of clinical and preclinical stage compounds to address significant unmet medical needs in cardio-renal disease, CNS disorders, inflammatory and neuro-inflammatory diseases, and oncology.