When Everett Stone began his farrier career at 16, he wasn’t thinking beyond his initial desire to help horses. In his area, the ground wore hooves down very quickly. Noting this, he went to an Oklahoma City horseshoeing school and started his own farrier business. For 14 years, he worked on protecting horse hooves, not immune system cells, but that would come in time.
Growing up on a farm, Stone was fascinated with making things and using his hands to solve problems. This translated well into his farrier practice, collaborating with veterinarians on making specialty shoes for injured or damaged hooves, according to the University of Texas News.
Over time, Stone desired a career change and enrolled in a community college course on human anatomy and physiology to become a veterinarian. It was his very first formal class, having been homeschooled his entire life.
“Oh, man. I loved it!” Stone says. “The poor graduate student that was teaching the course, she finally pulled me aside and begged me to quit asking so many questions until after class.”
After taking biology courses, Stone became enthralled with research and changed his major, graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry and biology, which he received from Drury University.
“Research is amazing. It’s kind of the thrill of discovery and maybe the creativity that comes in there too because I feel like science can be very creative. It is about finding new ways to answer a question,” Stone says.
After, he earned a PhD in cell and molecular biology from the University of Texas Austin. There, he worked as a research assistant professor, focusing his work on developing new cancer drugs and immunotherapies. In 2017, he was named Emerging Inventor of the Year by the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization.
In addition, Stone is also a scientific co-founder of two biopharmaceutical startups. He serves as a consultant in the clinical development of therapeutic enzyme technologies at Aeglea BioTherapeutics, the first therapeutics venture-capitalist-funded company in Texas to come out of UT Austin; and Kyn Therapeutics, which secured $28 million from venture capitalists in 2016. In addition, he is co-inventor on 15 patents and patent applications.
Stone is currently at work on revolutionary cancer concepts, including a new drug that could help the immune system fight cancer cells before they take hold. He has been studying the molecule methylthioadenosine (MTA), which healthy cells produce and recycle. However, it is also produced by cancer cells, but it is not always recycled. It is then expelled out of the cell and inhibits immune cells. If MTA could be eliminated, this could be a viable target for immunotherapy because his research suggests that MTA is protecting the cancer from the immune system.
The drug developed by him and his team would neutralize MTA, allowing the body to fight off the cancer before it grows.
“When you apply this drug, you’re getting tumor cells exposed to the immune system where they weren’t before, and the immune system says, ‘Ah, yes. You shouldn’t be here. Now we go to work.’ And that’s really exciting. In a couple of models here, we’re getting complete cures,” says Stone.
Despite his attention being drawn to medicine, Stone still makes time to forge metal tools in his blacksmith shop. Instead of pounding out horseshoes on his 100-year-old heirloom anvil, he works at perfecting chef knives. His shop is a nice escape after a long day spent in the lab.
“I feel like an overarching theme in my career is that I’ve made many, many tools. Some of them are good enough to be medicines,” Stone says.
While he creates cancer medicine, returning to the forge and making tools seems to be a medicine in its own way for him, as well.