An Interview with Joshua Schiffman, PEEL Therapeutics, Inc.

Dr. Schiffman is the CEO and Co-Founder of PEEL Therapeutics, delivering evolution-inspired medicine to patients. He also co-founded, an online family history collection tool. Dr. Schiffman is a Professor of Pediatrics and Investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah and the Medical Director for the Family Cancer Assessment Clinic. Read his full bio.

Interview with Joshua Schiffman, PEEL Therapeutics, Inc.

Q: There are various new, emerging therapeutics that bring us closer towards a cure for life-threatening disorders such as cancer, HIV, or Huntington’s disease. Prominent examples include the popular gene editing tool CRISPR or new and improved cell and gene therapies. By when can we expect these new therapeutics being part of routine clinical care?

A: It will take at least several more years before some of these latest tools like CRISPR reach routine clinical care, although the field is making tremendous progress with cell and gene therapies. The regulatory process is a long and strict road, but definitely helps to oversee the safety and toxicity of these latest technological breakthroughs.

Q: What other emerging therapeutics will have a significant impact on patient care in the near and far future?

A: At PEEL Therapeutics, we’re very focused on delivery nanomedicines and the ability to use cutting-edge nanotechnology to introduce proteins and other payloads directly to the right patient at the right time for the right disease. In addition, like other emerging biotech companies, we have begun to explore how to utilize AI when developing our drugs for precision medicine.

Q: In order to maximize the potential of the aforementioned therapeutics in the clinic, what strategies need to be adapted?

A: Some of the best strategies include robust patient cohorts with associated genomic characterization, as this level of precision medicine helps companies to understand which patient population (and even genomic alterations in tumors) best benefit from the emerging therapeutics that are being tested.

Q: What are some of the major challenges that need to be overcome before we can see widespread applications across the clinic?

A: We need to see better data harmonization and synchronization between physicians enrolling patients on early clinical trials. Once a new drug is seen to work for the same disease in a variety of different practice settings, then this will insure a better chance for that drug’s success.

Q: How can and should the community work together to get those various therapeutics safely into the clinic?

A: The community should continue to foster an interest in precision medicine, with multiple educational outreaches and meetings, and also articles in the peer-reviewed literature. Without the buy-in from the busy and practicing clinician, it will be difficult to introduce and adopt the newest ways to treat disease.

Q: What solution is your organization providing to address what need in precision medicine?

A: PEEL Therapeutics is taking a unique approach to identifying and developing new precision medicines: we look to evolution for molecules that naturally occur in animals that prevent disease. For example, elephants rarely develop cancer and we have identified the additional p53 proteins in contributing to this natural cancer resistance. PEEL is now developing a drug that will deliver this elephant p53 to treat human patients with cancer. We leverage evolution’s pipeline for R&D and introduce new drugs at the intersection between nature and cutting-edge nanotechnology.

Q: Is there anything you would like to share with the PMWC audience?

A: “PEEL” = the Hebrew word for “elephant,” for which we named our biotech startup. Our company is located in Salt Lake City, Utah and also in Haifa, Israel (hence the Hebrew origin of our name!). We translate the findings from evolutionary biology into medicines being developed for cancer and inflammatory diseases using Israeli delivery technology. We started with elephants, but now PEEL Therapeutics is developing a wide-array of other evolution-based therapeutics that have been inspired from plant defenses to newborn microbial protection to other amazing animal abilities. We’re using hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary “R&D” to introduce new drugs for precision medicine.