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Scott Strome, MD, FACS
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Fighting Head and Neck Cancer
It was an offer he couldn’t refuse. After all, it came from his dad. And saying “yes” began Scott Strome’s extraordinary career in translational research.
“When I went to medical school, I had absolutely no interest in research and wanted to be a pure clinician,” recalls Strome, MD, FACS, professor and chair of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology‒Head & Neck Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“However, my dad [Marshall Strome, MD, MS] had the idea to transplant a human voice box, and asked for my participation in developing the animal models. He and I are best friends so I readily accepted. Helping him facilitate the first human larynx transplant kindled my interest in translational research.”
After the younger Strome completed his studies at Harvard Medical School in 1991, he was involved in the development of two biologics (products derived of living human or animal protein) at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. When Strome came to UMB in 2005, he brought with him the dream of founding a biotech company.
Here, Strome advanced a vaccine designed to provoke the body’s immune system into attacking a patient’s head and neck cancer. He also helped develop stradomers, a recombinant replacement protein for intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). IVIG is a blood product derived from donor plasma that’s administered to patients with antibody deficiencies. An IVIG substitute is important because IVIG treatment carries the risk of anaphylactic shock, is always in short supply, and is very expensive.
Strome’s friendship with biotech entrepreneur David Block, MD, MBA, led the two men to found Gliknik Inc. in 2007. Today Gliknik is one of the state’s most promising early-stage life science companies, creating new therapies for cancer and immune/inflammatory disorders. From August 2007 to August 2013, the company raised nine rounds of equity financing from investors and won $3 million in competitive grants. UMB’s Technology Transfer Office licensed Strome’s discoveries to Gliknik, providing the company’s scientific basis.
In 2013, Gliknik announced a licensing agreement granting multinational Pfizer Inc. exclusive worldwide rights to GL-2045, one of Gliknik’s IVIG discoveries. As part of this agreement, Gliknik received an upfront payment of $25 million.
Block, Gliknik’s president and CEO, notes that Strome is “the uncommon clinician who knows the immunology and tumor immunology literature as well as or better than most immunologists. He shares with me an entrepreneurial interest in bringing new drugs to market to help patients, which is our ultimate goal.”
Strome admits that his expertise is science, not business. Luckily, he doesn’t consider the two in competition with one another. “When you think about what the mission of a university is―especially a medical school―one of its core themes has to be the development of new knowledge that will have a positive impact on patients’ lives,” says Strome. “The way I measure success is having the chance―having the ability―to help a lot of people.”
Strome’s discoveries are doing just that.