The Beginning

David was working as a volunteer undercover investigator against the sexual enslavement of children in Cambodia when he was blindsided by a bus while sitting on a motorcycle. It took him two years to successfully rehabilitate his body. Despite a prognosis he would be forever handicapped, David was one of forty civilian men selected across the country to attend the brutal selection process required to become an Officer in one of the U.S. Military’s Special Operations Communities. He finished despite contracting a very serious lung infection called SIPE (Swimmer Induced Pulmonary Edema). Upon successful completion, he was advised to seek further evaluation and treatment by a specialist. What he found out: He had completed selection also with an ultra-rare, deadly, and untreatable form of head and neck cancer. He was 27.

David’s form of cancer, like so many, does not respond to chemotherapy and has no approved targeted therapies. Standard treatment is surgery and radiation of the head and neck. David’s cancer metastasizes usually to a patient’s lungs or brain at which point, without any targeted therapies, patients die within 1-2 years. However, David walked out of his final appointment at Massachusetts General Hospital with a fire and determination. He decided he would not go gently.

The Problem

More than 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States alone. Approximately 42% of those are rare cancers. That’s 700,000+ people diagnosed with a rare cancer every single year. Two-thirds of all cancer patients in the United States do not have a therapy approved for their disease. And rare cancer patients are even two and a half times less likely than that to have an approved therapy. Those numbers will continue to rise as we understand more about this relentless disease and the root mechanisms which drive it.

The Idea

David never got the opportunity to serve in uniform due to his cancer diagnosis.  However, he soon met a 6-year-old blonde-haired little girl with the same head and neck cancer, Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma (ACC). And then a 30-year-old with a similarly rare form of cancer without any approved treatment. And then another rare cancer patient. And another. And another. In less than eight months after he had been diagnosed, David leveraged his Harvard network and partnered with former Genzyme Senior Vice President Gene Williams to found SHEPHERD Therapeutics. What began as a rage to live and determination to save the life of that little girl and patients like her, became a biotech company “by a cancer patient for cancer patients.” SHEPHERD has since brought on a team of scientists, investors, and pharmaceutical veterans who believe that given the technology, resources, and biological understanding we have as a society, we will solve the problems we decide to solve. No one should be left to die. Not at 6, nor at 27, nor at 45, nor at 68. We will not go down without a fight. And we will continue to relentlessly turn research into medicine until every rare cancer patient lives.

That the neglected may live.