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Oct 28, 2002
 |  BioCentury  |  Emerging Company Profile

Cytopia: '(J)ust (A)nother (K)inase'

When Andrew Wilks discovered a new group of kinases in 1989 while looking for cytokine receptors, he wanted to call them JAK kinases for "just another kinase," because they weren't what he was looking for. Indeed, cytokine receptors have no intracellular kinase domain.

"I chickened out," Wilks said. Instead, JAK refers to Janus kinases, because members of that family have two kinase domains.

Although an incidental find, however, JAK kinases turn out to be important to cytokine receptors, which recruit them to act as intracellular domains.

JAKs activate the STATs, which are transcription factors. Thus, much of what cytokines do goes through the JAK kinases. For example, interleukin-4 (IL-4) and IL-9 recruit JAK1 and JAK3; IL-13 recruits JAKs 1 and 2; and IL-5 recruits JAK2.

In 1999, Wilks founded Cytopia Pty. Ltd. with the goal of becoming a mini-version of Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (VRTX, Cambridge, Mass.). Cytopia combines a focus on JAK kinases with in silico compound generation and screening, high throughput medicinal chemistry and wet...

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