Year: 2021

EXCLUSIVE: Flagship Pioneering Company Kintai Therapeutics Focuses on Enteric Therapeutics

The vast majority of immune cells are found in the gut but historically, the gut has been viewed as a liability to drug development. The question of whether or not greater understanding of harnessing the gut could drive more promising drug development has led to the formation of a new company, Kintai Therapeutics.

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Industry veterans Paul Peter Tak and Eric Meldrum join Citryll’s Board

Citryll announced its Board has been strengthened with two industry veterans with impressive track-records.

Who is Paul-Peter Tak?

Paul Peter Tak, MD, PhD served as Professor of Medicine and Chair of the Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at the Academic Medical Centre/University of Amsterdam (AMC). At GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) he served as Senior Vice President, Chief Immunology Officer, and Global Development Leader, and oversaw the creation of a portfolio of new medicines for immune-mediated inflammatory diseases, cancer and infectious diseases. He has been CEO of Tempero Pharmaceuticals and Kintai Therapeutics, a Flagship Pioneering company, and served on the Board of multiple biotech companies.

Who is Eric Meldrum?

Eric Meldrum, PhD is currently CSO at ENYO Pharma, a company currently in Phase 2 for Chronic Hepatitis B and NASH. Eric has 12 years of drug discovery experience at GSK. Until 2005 he was head of the Asthma and Rhinitis Disease Biology Department responsible for drug development from early optimization to Phase 2 proof of concept. Since then, Eric has gained 10 years of experience as CSO in several biotech companies and brings Citryll a depth of experience in translational approaches to prioritise assets within therapeutic opportunities and the necessary strategic considerations.

Who are Citryll?

We warmly welcome Paul Peter and Eric and are incredibly honoured to have them on the Board of Citryll. Their impressive and complementary track records in drug discovery and development in pharma, biotech and academia will add significant value to the progression of our NET inhibiting development candidate CIT-013”, says CEO and executive board member Helmuth van Es.

“The Citryll team is a world leader and pioneer in the NETosis space with a first in class, high-potential therapeutic antibody in development. I am excited to be on its Board and support Citryll to help advance the lead compound into the clinic and beyond” says Paul Peter Tak.

“This is another great example of top-notch Dutch science and Citryll is a very exciting example of this. With its labs situated in Oss, the birthplace of one of the world’s most effective PD1 antagonists and other blockbusters, Citryll and CIT-013 are setup for a similar huge potential” says Eric Meldrum.

Paul Peter Tak will represent investor BOM Brabant Ventures and Eric Meldrum will represent Brightgene and is chairman. The other non-executive members of the Board are Jos Raats of ModiQuest, Nora Frey of Seventure Partners and Daniela Couto of BioGeneration Ventures (BGV).

In June 2020 Citryll closed the second round of series A fundraise of in total € 18,5 M/ $21 M with Seventure and BGV, as new investors and support of existing investors BOM Brabant Ventures, Brightgene, ModiQuest, Curie capital and

About Citryll B.V.

Citryll B.V. is a private pharmaceutical company based in Oss, the Netherlands at the Pivot Park and that is dedicated to the development and commercialization of therapeutics that target NETosis and NETs. Citryll was founded in 2015 by ModiQuest B.V., originator of the tACPA patents, Helmuth van Es, CEO Citryll, and Renato Chirivi of ModiQuest B.V., CSO Citryll and co-inventor of tACPA.

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Candel Therapeutics Appoints Pharma Veteran And Immunologist Paul-Peter Tak, M.D, PH.D. as CEO

Candel Therapeutics appoints Pharma veteran and immunologist Paul-Peter Tak, M.D., PH.D., as Chief Executive Officer, expands leadership team with Chief Financial Officer, Chief Business Officer and Chief Regulator Officer appointments

  • Advancing oncolytic viral immunotherapies that light up and destroy local tumors, while creating a durable and systemic immune response
  • Phase 3 prostate cancer program enrolling patients, clinical data readouts from other ongoing clinical programs in 2021
  • Company founder and former CEO Estuardo Aguilar-Cordova, M.D. inf., Ph.D., takes on role of chief scientific officer
  • Nathan Caffo named chief business officer; John Canepa appointed as chief financial officer; Susan Stewart named chief regulatory officer

About Candel Therapeutics

Candel Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company advancing a late-stage pipeline of oncolytic viral immunotherapies that induce immunogenic cell death in cancer cells at the site of injection, unmasking tumor neo-antigens within an activated microenvironment, and leading to a systemic, durable immune response against the tumor and its distant metastases. The company’s viral platforms have been genetically engineered to minimize impact on healthy tissue, while maximizing the patient’s immune response to fight the tumor.

Candel Therapeutics today announced that Paul-Peter Tak, M.D., Ph.D., was appointed president and chief executive officer of Candel Therapeutics in a planned transition to lead a new phase of growth as the Company advances its broad pipeline of oncolytic viral immunotherapies. Dr. Tak is a world-renowned immunologist, drug developer, entrepreneur and patient advocate who brings more than 25 years of demonstrated success to the role. The company has also appointed Nathan Caffo as chief business officer, John Canepa as chief financial officer and Susan Stewart as chief regulatory officer.

“Candel has tremendous potential to change the cancer treatment paradigm for the many patients who aren’t well served by currently available treatment options,” said Paul-Peter Tak, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of Candel Therapeutics. “Our approach, which is based on two differentiated oncolytic virus-based platforms, enables local destruction of tumor cells while eliciting a robust, systemic, long-lasting immune response. With our lead compound currently in a phase 3 clinical trial, our rQNestin 34.5 oncolytic HSV in phase 1, and our recently initiated discovery program, Candel is leveraging a unique platform to develop innovative immunotherapies for patients with an unmet need.”

What does Candel Therapeutics do?

Candel is focused on developing immunotherapies that induce immunogenic cell death in cancer cells at the site of injection, unmasking tumor neo-antigens while activating immuno-inflammation in the tumor microenvironment. This process leads to a broad, systemic immune response against the cancer cells, with the potential to change disease outcomes across a variety of solid tumor indications. Candel currently has clinical programs in prostate cancer, glioblastoma, non-small cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Aguilar-Cordova commented, “Candel has made tremendous progress in advancing its viral immunotherapy platforms. Having now administered our investigational therapies to over 700 patients in multiple phase 1 to phase 3 clinical trials, we are at an important stage of the company’s growth. Building on this foundation, we are proud to have attracted such accomplished industry veterans as Paul-Peter, Nathan, John and Sue to join us and help realize Candel’s potential in this next stage of growth.”

Who is Dr. Paul-Peter Tak?

With a career spanning nearly three decades in the life science and biopharma industry, Dr. Tak was most recently president and chief executive officer of Kintai Therapeutics as well as venture partner at Flagship Pioneering. Previously, he was senior vice president and global head of R&D for immuno-inflammation, oncology and infectious disease, as well as chief immunology officer and global development leader at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), while also serving as co-chair of GSK’s scientific review board. Prior to that, Dr. Tak was president and CEO of Tempero Pharmaceuticals, where he facilitated the company’s acquisition by GSK. He co-founded Sitryx Therapeutics and Arthrogen, and serves on the boards of Sitryx Therapeutics, Levicept, and Citryll. He previously served on the board of a variety of companies, including ViiV Healthcare, Galvani Bioelectronics, and Omega Therapeutics. Dr. Tak is board certified in internal medicine, was trained as an immunologist, earned a Ph.D., and later became a professor of medicine at various universities. He has been elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK).

“With his strong leadership, broad drug development experience and unwavering patient advocacy, Paul-Peter embodies Candel’s mission, values and core strengths,” said Paul Manning, chairman of Candel and chairman and CEO of PBM Capital. “We, alongside CandeI’s board, look forward to working with this outstanding team as the company moves through its next evolution, advances multiple late-stage clinical programs across various tumor types, and evaluates its next steps in the capital markets.”

The New Candel Therapeutics Team

Nathan Caffo brings a depth of experience to Candel. His 26-year industry career has been focused on cancer therapeutics, personalized medicine and applications of genomic technology. He was most recently chief business officer at ALX Oncology, an immuno-oncology company where he played an instrumental role in multiple private and debt financings totaling $120 million, as well as the company’s $186M IPO in July 2020. Prior to ALX Oncology, he was president and CEO of Presage Biosciences, an oncology company that developed the first intratumoral microdosing platform for evaluation of multiple oncology agents. While at Presage, he also led the company’s partnering strategy, resulting in numerous biopharma partnerships, including strategic equity investments from Celgene and Takeda. He also held business development and management roles at Perlegen, Applied Biosystems and Celera.

John Canepa has over 40 years of experience in the life science industry as an audit partner with a large international public accounting firm, and as a financial executive with public and private life science companies. Prior to joining Candel, he served as CFO of Frequency Therapeutics. During his tenure, Frequency completed several public and private financings, including its initial public offering in October 2019. Prior to joining Frequency, he served as CFO of Agilis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and was instrumental in its sale to PTC Therapeutics in August 2018. Prior to Agilis, he was COO and CFO of Asterand Bioscience and led its sale to a private equity group in 2017. Mr. Canepa began his career at Arthur Andersen & Co. and was with the firm for 23 years.

Susan Stewart, J.D. has worked for more than 28 years in biopharmaceutical regulatory affairs, with significant experience devising innovative strategies for novel therapeutics, overseeing regulatory submissions at various stages of product development and leading interactions with global health authorities. She served as the program lead on several products that received FDA approval including Renagel® (sevelamercarbonate) and Thyrogen® (thyrotropinalpha). As an independent consultant, she also serves as chief regulatory officer at Kaleido Biosciences, and had served as senior vice president of regulatory affairs and quality. She held previous regulatory and leadership positions at Abbott, Genzyme, Tokai, and Transmolecular.

To learn more about Candel Therapeutics, visit

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Pioneering Gut Science, Kintai Therapeutics Is Bringing a New Small Molecule Modality to Fruition

What if the gut, widely regarded as the body’s second brain, could offer a much more impactful means to effect broad systemic pharmacological actions of orally administered drugs based on the confluence of the enteric nervous system, immune system, and microbiome within it?

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Paul-Peter Tak

Ten Pillars of Success for Building a Biotech Company (or any Innovative Organization)

First year reflections: Ten Pillars of Success for Building a Biotech Company

A year has passed since I joined Candel Therapeutics as its CEO!

What did I find when I joined?

A late clinical stage biopharmaceutical company focused on tipping the balance in favor of the immune system, using oncolytic viral immunotherapies.  A hidden gem that was ready to be transformed for the next stage, delivering on the promise of our investigational drugs.

Previously, I’ve had the privilege to lead small and large organizations – in academia, big pharma, and biotech. The principles of management and leadership are not necessarily different, whether you lead an organization of 10 or 1000. You must focus on the best science, keep the patient in the center, bring in top talent, create a culture that fosters collaboration and creativity, leverage collective intelligence, make rigorous decision based on data…, these are all critical ingredients for success in both biotech and big pharma.

At Candel Therapeutics, we are developing immunotherapies that induce immunogenic cell death in cancer cells at the site of injection, unmasking tumor neo-antigens within an activated microenvironment. This process leads to a systemic, durable immune response against the tumor and the uninjected distant metastases, with the potential to change disease outcomes across a variety of indications. In just 12 months, we brought in a strong executive team, defined the strategy for the next stage of the company, delivered on our clinical milestones, created a new discovery platform, and completed the Initial Public Offering – we are now listed on Nasdaq ($CADL).

How did we do this?

Think of a biotech, or any innovative organization, as a building with a critical foundation, which is trust (Figure). Leaders need to take their trust-building skills to a completely new level to be successful, based on ability, integrity and generosity (1). Collective intelligence is the rooftop of this building. Cognitive diversity, social sensitivity of team members, and respectful, candid debate all contribute to intellectual team performance (2).

The 10 Pillars of Success

Think of an innovative organization as a building with 10 critical pillars of success

Below I describe 10 pillars of success. There are more of course, but in my experience, these are most critical. It’s impossible to describe each in detail here, and therefore I provide references for background reading throughout.

  1. Build a great, diverse and multidisciplinary leadership team that can create the organization of the future (3). Build strong leadership first, then set strategy, articulate the mission and prepare for the future organization.
  2. Create a strong culture based on freedom and accountability. The fine balance is to achieve alignment without excessive control (4). I want my teams to be inspired, to display creativity, to challenge each other, to act with greater efficiency and purpose, and to genuinely collaborate.
  3. Manage energy of the team (5); make sure people have time to step back, relax, see the big picture, and broaden the horizon. From my European roots, I know the benefits of stepping back, relaxing and taking time with family, friends and self-reflection – to be able to get new ideas and be productive in the long run.
  4. Innovation often starts by looking beyond the edge rather than being guided to stay on a defined path (6). We need to engage with potentially disruptive possibilities and foster lateral thinking and creativity.
  5. Implement a solution-oriented management approach. Focus on what you’re good at, and ask questions like: ‘what’s going well?’, and ‘what would it take to further improve on this?’ (7). Identify areas that are weak and unnecessary, not a priority, or difficult to fix. Accept these and factor into your planning and move on.
  6. Leaders need to be decisive (8) and persistent (9). There is nothing more painful and paralyzing to an organization than not making decisions. Make the best decision possible (see pillars 7 and 8), get everyone behind it until you have new data to change direction, and be persistent.
  7. Decisions need to be pushed down to the lowest appropriate level, and it needs to be clear who owns the decision (10). At the same time, some big decisions require the integration of multiple functional areas to leverage collective intelligence and weigh perspectives and priorities.
  8. Effective decision-making requires three essential ingredients – listening, judgement and explaining (11). Intuitive judgement is often an important starting point in decision-making (12). Trust your intuition but then make sure you listen to a diverse range of thinking and expertise from external advisers as well as internal insightful colleagues, and listen to the data before a decision is finalized.
  9. Get access to the best academic minds in the context of peer review and collaboration (13). Most scientists do not work for your organization, so make sure to get access to them. Expand from insular company ideas and thinking to broaden the knowledge base with external thought-leaders.
  10. Focus and prioritization: place resources, time and energy behind those projects you believe will enable you to achieve optimal outcomes (14). The law of scarcity is a basic law of economics, which notes that resources — talent and capital — are limited, not infinite. Look at time and resources with a laser-sharp focus on value for patients, society and shareholders.

It’s August 2021. Candel Therapeutics is not an early start-up anymore. The foundation, pillars and rooftop came together, but construction and building will continue. As a team we have created an environment where talented scientists and business leaders can thrive, and where we develop medicines for diseases we could not treat before.

For me, I am enjoying this new adventure. There’s an ecosystem here unlike anything I have experienced before. Bringing my background as physician, academic and big pharma leader into an entrepreneurial area where I can shape and drive an organization with so much potential is rewarding beyond compare.


1.     Blakey J. The trusted executive: Nine leadership habits that inspire results, relationships and reputation. Kogan Page. 2016  

2.     Woolley AW et al. Evidence for a collective intelligence factor in the performance of human groups. Science 2010;330:686-688

3.     McCord P. Powerful: building a culture of freedom and responsibility. Silicon Guild. 2018

4.     Mankins M and Garton E. How Spotify balances employee autonomy and accountability. Harvard Business Review. 2017

5.     Schwartz T and McCarthy C. Manage your energy, not your time. Harvard Business Review. 2007


7.     Cauffman and Dierolf. The solution tango. Marshall Cavendish Books. 2006

8.     Botelho EL and Powell KR. The CEO next door: The 4 behaviours that transform ordinary people into world-class leaders . The Crown Publishing Group. 2018

9.     Collins J. Good to great. Why some companies make the leap… and others don’t. HarperCollins Publishers. 2001

10.  Blenko MW, Mankins M and Rogers P. The decision-driven organization. Harvard Business Reviews. 2010


12.  Gladwell M. Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. Little, Brown and Company. 2005

13.  Tkach Tuzman K. Doctors in the house. Biocentury Innovations. 2017

14.  Thorndike WN. The outsiders. Eight unconventional CEOs and their radically rational blueprint for success. Harvard Business Review Press. 2012

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Tak lands at Candel, with plans to speed up development of immunotherapy’s play late-stage assets

Who are Candel Therapeutics?

Oncolytic virus company Candel has bolstered its executive team with a quartet of industry veterans headlined by new CEO Paul Peter Tak, a biotech entrepreneur and GSK veteran who plans to raise venture money to accelerate development of the company’s late-stage pipeline while adding discovery programs.

Boston-based Candel Therapeutics, formerly known as Advantagene Inc., is developing two different oncolytic virus platforms with the most advanced program in Phase III testing to treat prostate cancer.

But with the majority of the company’s more than 20 years of existence spent subsisting on federal funding, one of Tak’s primary focuses will be to accelerate the pace of development.

“There are not many biotech companies out there almost in stealth mode that are in Phase III, pre-IPO in cancer immunotherapy,” Tak told BioCentury. “I thought this is where I can have an impact with my background in academia, pharma and biotech, to help build this business ready for the next stage.”

Who is Paul Peter-Tak?

Tak was most recently president and CEO of Kintai Therapeutics and a venture partner at Flagship Pioneering. Before that he was SVP and chief immunology officer at GlaxoSmithKline plc (LSE:GSK; NYSE:GSK).

Over the past two-plus months he’s added three other executives to the team. John Canepa was named Candel’s CFO. He was most recently CFO at degenerative disease company Frequency Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:FREQ), which last year raised $88.6 million in an IPO.

Also joining Candel is CBO Nathan Caffo and Chief Regulatory Officer Susan Stewart. Caffo was previously CBO at immuno-oncology company ALX Oncology Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ:ALXO),while Stewart, who serves as an independent consultant, is also chief regulatory officer at Kaleido Biosciences Inc. (NASDAQ:KLDO). Candel’s prior CEO, founder Estuardo Aguilar-Cordova, has become CSO, while Laura Aguilar remains CMO.

As Tak continues to expand Candel’s management team, he plans to begin fund-raising to add fresh capital to the company. Candel was founded in 1999 but didn’t raise its first institutional financing round until 2016, with subsequent series B and C rounds last year that bring total venture capital raised to $67.6 million.

Tak said that as the company has been efficient with its captial there’s still plenty of cash to execute on existing programs, but he aims to accelerate the development of the pipeline while adding new discovery programs.

Aglatimagne Besadenovec

Candel’s lead program is aglatimagene besadenovec (CAN-2409), a replication-deficient oncolytic adenovirus that delivers the HSV thymidine kinase gene to cancer cells. Patients are then dosed with valacyclovir, which the locally expressed thymidine kinase enzyme converts into a toxic metabolite, killing the tumor cells and creating a pro-inflammatory microenvironment that leads to increased T cell infiltration.

Aglatimagene is in a Phase III trial for intermediate or high-risk prostate cancer patients and a Phase II trial for prostate cancer patients on active surveillance. The same program is being tested in three other indications:

  • a Phase III trial starting next year in first-line glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
  • Phase II studies in pancreatic cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Candel’s second platform is a novel HSV vector. The lead program there is CAN-3110, a replication-competent HSV oncolytic virus that can selfamplify and is in Phase I testing to treat recurrent glioblastoma.

Tak said data from the Phase III prostate cancer trial is expected in 2023, while next year Candel expects Phase II data from the active surveillance prostate cancer trial and the NSCLC trial; and Phase I data for aglatimagene plus Opdivo nivolumab in newly diagnosed GBM and for CAN-3110 in recurrent glioblastoma.

Tak said he’s also starting a discovery program of novel HSV oncolytic viruses that can modulate the tumor microenvironment. Other companies such as PsiOxus Therapeutics Ltd., Replimune Group Inc. (NASDAQ:REPL) and Transgene S.A. (Euronext:TNG) have “armed” oncolytic virus platforms that carry transgenes that express molecules that can modulate the tumor locally.

GSK-Backed Sitryx Launches With Six Immunometabolism Eggs In Its Basket

GlaxoSmithKline, SV Health Investors and Sofinnova are among the backers of a new Oxford-based biotech which has raised $30m in series A financing and boasts a strong line-up of academic founders. CEO Neil Weir outlines Sitryx’s raison d’etre.

Who created Sitryx?

Chemical assets from GlaxoSmithKline PLC and target biology insights from high-profile academic founders form the basis for new company Sitryx, which has been launched with $30m in series A funding. Focused on developing disease-modifying treatments for autoimmune/inflammatory conditions and cancer, it is working on six early-stage projects to target immunometabolic pathways with small-molecule candidates. The company sprang out of the Immunology Network set up at GSK by Paul Peter Tak, who last month left the company after seven years and who is a co-founder of Sitryx.

“We have set ourselves up to be leaders in the field of immunometabolism,” explained CEO Neil Weir, who joined the company as its first employee in April 2018. He was previously SVP Discovery at UCB Pharma. The company’s assets include the tangible assets from GSK and “biological insights into pathways and as yet unpublished data from the founders’ labs around the connectivity of targets to human disease,” Weir told Scrip. “We’ve not encamped in one specific area; our targets cover a broad range of metabolic pathways through the insights that have come from our founders in glycolysis, the TCA [tricarboxylic acid] cycle and in pathways that feed into the TCA cycle.”

Sitryx has six academic founders from the world of immunology and metabolism:

Houman Ashrafian – Partner at SV Health Investors and Visiting Professor and Head of Experimental Therapeutics at University of Oxford

Luke O’Neill – Professor of Biochemistry, School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin

Jonathan Powell – Professor of Oncology and Associate Director, Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, Johns Hopkins University

Jeff Rathmell – Professor of Cancer Biology and Director, Vanderbilt Center for Immunobiology

Michael Rosenblum – Assistant Professor, UCSF School of Medicine

Paul Peter Tak – formerly Chief Immunology Officer and SVP at GlaxoSmithKline, and Professor of Medicine at Amsterdam University Medical Centre

What is immunometabolism?

Tak explained to Scrip that it had been Luke O’Neill through his work with GSK’s Immunology Network who had helped identify immunometabolism as “potentially the next big thing in immunology.” Unlike previous work targeting metabolic pathways to starve tumor cells, “this is a fundamentally different approach where you actually target metabolic pathways to interfere with the immune system and thereby target the tumor cell,” Tak said, noting that such an approach is also relevant to diseases of auto-immunity.

While the fundamentals of metabolism are a fairly well understood already, attempting to drug metabolic pathways to change the behaviour of immune cells is still an emerging field, explained Weir. “And from what we can see and with the way we’re pursuing our targets, we’re not seeing other competitors.” With the breadth of experience of the founders and knowledge around different targets, Sitryx “doesn’t have all our eggs in one basket,” added the CEO: “There’s a breadth of portfolio here, it’s not just a single project. And it covers both innate and adaptive immune responses.”

The Future of Immuno-Oncology

The company is still at an early stage, and does not expect to begin identifying candidates to take into the clinic until late 2019, with first in human trials not expected before 2020.

To date, immuno-oncology has focused in large part on stimulating cell surface receptors using antibody treatments, but Sitryx is looking to develop small molecule oral and topical therapies that influence processes inside the cells. There may be potential to develop such treatments to be complementary to other therapies, but the company’s starting point is to view its candidates as standalone therapies, Weir said.

The programs are split between autoimmune/inflammatory and oncology conditions but “we will follow where the biology takes us, having set out on a path which starts off with a hypothesis as to where it’s pertinent,” the CEO noted, adding that the approach could also be applied to fibrosis.

Sitryx will have its own labs in Oxford Science Park but it will also work with founders, placing post-docs in their labs, as well as working with CROs. And GSK will support the company, for example helping it to understand and apply PROTACS (proteolysis targeting chimera) technology.

The series A round was co-led by SV Health Investors and Sofinnova Partners, with GSK and Longwood Fund also investing. GSK has no special rights on candidates emerging from Sitryx’s pipeline.

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Going with Your Gut Instinct

I’ve been interested in this field since before the term “microbiome” was coined. In the 1990s, I conducted research at Leiden University Medical Center on the role of microorganisms in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We were the first to take biopsies from the target tissues of inflamed joints of patients with RA and other forms of inflammatory joint disease, and analyze them using 16s PCR. We detected microbial DNA in different forms of arthritis and predicted that it would be derived from the gut.

Paul Peter Tak

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