E4: Rx for Rare Cancer Research
Mary Parker

E4: Rx for Rare Cancer Research

At 27, David Hysong learned he had a rare form of head and neck cancer so he started a biotech to research it.

By the the time he was diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma or ACC, David had lived a breathless life of adventure: humanitarian work in Southeast Asia, studying at Harvard Divinity School, training for the US Military Special Operations. It just wasn't in Hysong's nature to "sit around and die" so he decided to do something about it.

ACC is a rare and unpredictable cancer with no approved chemotherapies. The stardard way to treat it is to surgically remove it. Doctors did just that, but told Hysong that he had five years, maybe longer, before the cancer returned.

So he launched Shepherd Therapeutics for the "neglected, the left out, and the left behind."  Shepherd uses software and proprietary algorithms to analyze research on rare cancers. Their analysis is paired with patient profiles, demographics, and any other data they can accumulate to develop treatment plans for patients with rare cancers.

Extending beyond the original scope of Shepherd Therapeutics are two nonprofits that Hysong helped create, a public foundation and a private charity, which will be used to fund research and treatment plans for rare cancers. All three institutions have come about through Hysong's tireless networking and his excellent team, including co-founder Gene Williams, formerly of biotech giant Genzyme.

Hysong will be recognized with Charles River’s 2nd Annual World Congress on Sept. 17. Looking toward the future, He  intends to remain the public face of Shepherd Therapeutics and work towards expanding the company’s ability to fight rare cancers. He says that the bottom line for the company is reflected in the name, which he has every intention of living up to.

"I think it's easy to think of a shepherd as a kind of pastoral children's figure, but really it's someone who's putting his or her life on the line to save those who cannot fight for themselves," said Hysong. " We see ourselves in that way."

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