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Daily Brief: another departure at Gilead, veteran researcher to head up Karuna

Exodus continues from Gilead

More changes at Gilead as CMO departs

That ‘end of an era’ feeling at Gilead as key personnel leave has been reinforced by the departure of Andrew Cheng, who is leaving after nearly 20 years at the company.

After decades playing a key role in the company’s HIV drug development team, Cheng was made chief medical officer in April this year, but is now heading for the door – and most likely a new (as yet unannounced) post in the biotech field.

Andrew Cheng

The news comes just weeks after CEO John Milligan and John Martin, the former CEO and current chairman, announced that they will both depart by the end of 2018.

In April, longstanding chief scientific officer Norbert Bischofberger also left the company for a new venture.

The company has enjoyed huge success in the last few years thanks to blockbuster hepatitis C treatments Sovaldi and Harvoni, but is now feeling withdrawal pangs as the franchise declines steeply. Whoever takes over at the top will be under pressure to find some quick wins as well as long-term solutions to its shrinking revenues.

Meanwhile, Gilead has also announced that Gregg Alton has been appointed to the newly created role of chief patient officer, focused on access to its company’s medicines and patient needs. He has been with the firm 20 years, most recently overseeing its international commercial operations and corporate affairs. Diana Brainard, MD, has been promoted to senior vice president, HIV and emerging viral infections.

Veteran researcher to head up Karuna’s antipsychotic push

Steven Paul

Karuna's new CEO Steven Paul

Steven Paul, a veteran researcher who played a key role in developing Lilly’s antipsychotic and depression blockbuster drugs such as Zyprexa and Cymbalta is to head up efforts to find the next generation of treatments.

Boston, Mass-based Karuna Pharmaceuticals is focused on targeting muscarinic cholinergic receptors for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders marked by psychosis and cognitive impairment.

Steven Paul will now build on the work of Andrew Miller, the lead inventor of its lead programme KarXT (xanomeline) a molecule originally discovered by Paul’s former team at Lilly.

Chairman of Karuna up to this point, he has been tempted to take the CEO role at the company, which is part of the PureTech Health family of boundary-pushing ventures.

Andrew Miller will now assume the role of chief operating officer.

“Targeting muscarinic receptors is one of the most promising approaches to treating both the psychosis and cognitive impairment that characterise many disabling neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, where there is a profound need for more effective treatments," commented Steven Paul.

"Having been one of the scientists involved in the original work on xanomeline at Lilly, I am excited by the progress that Karuna has made to unlock this important new class of therapeutics."

He says Karuna could become a leader in the field, and success with KarXT would make it the first antipsychotic drug with a truly novel mechanism in over 60 years.

“We are also excited by recent preclinical work suggesting that KarXT may be an effective non-opiate treatment for pain,” he added.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

15th August 2018

From: Research

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