News Releases

Leading Cancer Researcher Dr. Arthur M. Mercurio Joins aTyr as Scientific Advisor

Mar 17, 2020
Dr. Mercurio to advise company on the development of novel antibody therapeutics targeting neuropilin-2 (NRP2) for cancer

SAN DIEGO, March 17, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- aTyr Pharma, Inc. (Nasdaq: LIFE), a biotherapeutics company engaged in the discovery and development of innovative medicines based on novel immunological pathways, today announced the appointment of Arthur M. Mercurio, Ph.D. as a scientific advisor to the company. Dr. Mercurio currently serves as Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

“We would like to welcome Dr. Mercurio as a scientific advisor to our company and we look forward to his contributions as we continue to advance our understanding of NRP2 and its role in the development and metastatic progression of cancers,” said Dr. Sanjay Shukla, President and Chief Executive Officer of aTyr. “The acceptance of our abstract for a poster presentation by the American Association for Cancer Research would not have been possible without the assistance provided by Dr. Mercurio and his team. Dr. Mercurio’s guidance will prove invaluable as we continue to work to expand our NRP2 based pipeline and validate a new class of therapeutics based on NRP2 biology.”

“There exists a significant body of research suggesting a link between NRP2 and many different tumor types, and further that NRP2 may be a factor in driving increased aggressiveness and malignancy,” noted Dr. Mercurio. “After attending aTyr’s inaugural summit meeting on NRP2 biology last year, it became clear that the company has emerged as a leader in the development of NRP2-based antibody therapeutics and diagnostic reagents. I am eager to work with the team to leverage their unique research as we try to exploit this unique target and identify promising new cancer therapeutics.”

Dr. Mercurio joined the Department of Cancer Biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School as its Vice Chairman in 2005 from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, where he served as the Director of the Division of Cancer Biology and Angiogenesis. Dr. Mercurio is a recipient of the American Cancer Society Junior Faculty and Faculty Research Awards and was an Honorary Professor at the University of Copenhagen. His research work is focused on understanding mechanisms that enable carcinomas to invade surrounding tissue and progress to metastatic disease, with an emphasis on mechanisms that regulate epithelial and carcinoma differentiation.  Dr. Mercurio is an author of more than 150 peer reviewed publications. Dr. Mercurio received his B.S. in biochemistry magna cum laude from Rutgers University in 1975 and a Ph.D. in cell biology from Columbia University in 1981. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Cancer Research at M.I.T. from 1981-1985.

About NRP2

Neuropilin-2 (NRP2) is a cell surface receptor that plays a key role in lymphatic development and in regulating inflammatory responses. In many forms of cancer, high NRP2 expression is associated with worse outcomes. NRP2 can interact with multiple ligands and co-receptors through distinct domains to influence their functional roles, making it a potential drug target with multiple distinct therapeutic applications. NRP2 interacts with type 3 semaphorins and plexins to impact inflammation and with forms of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and their receptors, to impact lymphangiogenesis. In addition, NRP2 modulates interactions between CCL21 and CCR7 potentially impacting homing of dendritic cells to lymphoid organs. aTyr is currently investigating NRP2 receptor biology, both internally and in collaboration with key academic thought leaders, as a novel target for new product candidates for a variety of diseases, including cancer and inflammation.

About aTyr

aTyr is a biotherapeutics company engaged in the discovery and development of innovative medicines based on novel immunological pathways. aTyr’s research and development efforts are concentrated on a newly discovered area of biology, the extracellular functionality and signaling pathways of tRNA synthetases. aTyr has built a global intellectual property estate directed to a potential pipeline of protein compositions derived from 20 tRNA synthetase genes and their extracellular targets. aTyr’s primary focus is ATYR1923, a clinical-stage product candidate which binds to the neuropilin-2 receptor and is designed to down-regulate immune engagement in interstitial lung diseases. For more information, please visit

Forward-Looking Statements

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Joyce Allaire
Managing Director, LifeSci Advisors, LLC


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Source: aTyr Pharma, Inc.

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