With Editas’ third CEO in as many years, you can expect a new CMO and new development partners – Endpoints News

Sarepta Therapeutics CMO Gilmore O’Neill will take over as CEO and President of CRISPR biotech Editas Medicine on June 1st.

But already in the hours since he was announced, O’Neill has heard from his network about who could potentially become the new CMO of the genre editing company he is leading. Lisa Michaels was fired from her post as chief physician in early February, without public explanation, as part of a rebuilding of the C-suite.

Hiring a new CMO will be one of O’Neill’s top priorities when he takes over the C-suite posts from CEO Jim Mullen, who has been in the post for the past 14 months, the two said in a joint interview with End points News. The couple know each other well and will have few breaks to work out during the transition period due to their previous time together at Biogen in the Aughts, where Mullen was CEO and O’Neill held various VP and SVP positions.

“The company has not been as sharp in execution as it just should be, should be, should be,” Mullen said of the leadership transition. Editas’ shares of $ EDIT fell about 5.5% Thursday morning. As CEO, he will spend more time on “investor development, thinking about some policy development, looking beyond the horizon of the days when we can start commercializing products.”

Jim Mullen

Business development and capital raising will be further focus on “day one,” O’Neill said. His predecessor said Edita “has not been as active or as productive on the business development front” as it could have been. Biotechnology will seek to strengthen expertise through partnerships on its engineered NK cell programs due to the space’s “uber competitive” and expensive nature, Mullen said. In-depth interest is also flowing in from drug developers who want to pair their therapy with Editas’ editing machinery and technology, he added.

O’Neill also looked for a new partner over the past few months. His job search was laser-focused on CEO positions.

“Editas jumped off the page for me as a hugely exciting opportunity. Why? The technology. It has unlimited, real, potential and so the company itself there [is] differentiated core expertise in the company around nuclease enhancements, around guide RNA chemistry and design, as well as experience with different delivery methods, ”said O’Neill.

He inherits a nine-year-old biotech founded with the potential to be a pioneer in the CRISPR field. The company was born out of the science of CRISPR and genre editing leaders Feng Zhang, George Church, J. Keith Joung and David Liu.

But the company has only had a few data from clinical trials since they went into human studies. The company presented some preliminary data on EDIT-101 for Leber congenital amaurosis, a rare genetic vision loss disorder, in October 2021. And this week, biotechnology said it was the first to test a CRISPR gene-editing drug in vivo in a pediatric patient with EDIT-101. Editas began testing EDIT-101 in July 2019 with partner Allergan, but AbbVie dropped the deal in August 2020.

Also this year, Editas will begin testing its second program, EDIT-301, in patients with sickle cell disease and in another study in patients with transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia.

O’Neill has been CMO and EVP for R&D in Sarepta since June 2018, where he has contributed to Cambridge, MA biotech’s gene therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Amondys and Vyondys. Editas also highlighted O’Neill’s work on Biogen’s spinal muscle atrophy drug Spinraza and the MS therapies Plegridy and Tecfidera.

He is the third new CEO since 2019. Mullen took over in February 2021, when Cynthia Collins left after a two-year stay following Katrine Bosley’s exit in January 2019. Several other science and medical directors have also packed their suitcases in recent years.

“The first thing to start with on long-term viability is to have someone who is younger, which probably does not necessarily include me,” Mullen joked.

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