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Pfizer poaches cancer R&D head Jeff Settleman from Calico

Company gaining momentum in oncology

Jeff Settleman is leaving his position as the head of cancer research at Google-backed pharma company Calico Life Sciences, to take up a similar role at Pfizer.

The move brings to an end a four-year stint at Calico for Settleman, who was previously head of discovery oncology at Genentech after a distinguished academic career at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Jeff Settleman

Jeff Settleman

Settleman is taking over as head of oncology R&D at Pfizer from Robert Abraham, who has led the unit since 2011 but will retire at the end of this year. The appointment comes after a leadership reshuffle at Pfizer under new chief executive Albert Bourla, who took the helm in January.

Pfizer’s chief scientific officer Mikael Dolsten said Settleman “brings to Pfizer a breadth of experience in fundamental cancer biology, cancer genetics, and innovative thinking related to the role of tumour heterogeneity in the development of drug tolerance and resistance.”

The move marks a shift from managing early-stage projects at Calico – which is focusing on developing therapies to help increase lifespan – to Pfizer’s sizeable cancer pipeline which includes 44 programmes including 12 in phase 3.

In the last few months alone, the company has claimed approvals for now fewer than four new targeted cancer drugs.

That includes Xalkori follow-up Lorbrena (lorlatinib) for ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), PARP inhibitor Talzenna (talazoparib) for breast cancer, Daurismo (glasdegib) for acute myeloid leukaemia, and Vizimpro (dacomitinib), a challenger to AstraZeneca’s fast-growing Tagrisso (osimertinib) in EGFR-positive NSCLC.

Settleman comes in as Pfizer and partner Merck KGaA are also trying to build momentum for checkpoint inhibitor Bavencio (avelumab), which is approved for Merkel cell carcinoma and kidney cancer and is in a string of late-stage trials in other cancers.

“I am privileged to be joining a world-class team of scientists who have made many important contributions to the landscape of cancer treatments for patients over several decades,” he said.

“There has never been a more exciting time in cancer research and I look forward to helping advance and grow a highly promising pipeline that includes a variety of targeted therapies and immunotherapies, with opportunities for rational combination treatments.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

6th June 2019

From: Research

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