Drug Development

Merck-backed Quartet places biotech vet Gerhard Koenig at the helm

Gerhard Koenig has landed the top job at Quartet Medicine, just a few months after Merck grabbed a buyout option in its $575 million pain drug partnership deal. The former CSO at Forum, which was shut down recently in the wake of a key trial failure and clinical hold, Koenig takes the reins after founding investor Atlas Venture arranged a $23 million Series A.

Gerhard Koenig, Quartet Medicine CEO

Launched in late 2013, Cambridge, MA-based Quartet is taking a new path in developing a pain medication. Their work is based on research at Mass General, which showed that a genetic defect in a slice of the population prevents a spike in a chemical called BH4 following an injury, helping manage their chronic pain. The biotech has focused on mimicking that process with a small molecule.

Pain meds have attracted a growing amount of attention in recent years as the country deals with an epidemic of opioid abuse. Regulators and biopharma would like to find new ways to control pain without relying on opioids.

Koenig, a former exec at F-Prime, which bankrolled the expensive flop at Forum, is taking the place of startup CEO Kevin Pojasek, who has since taken a job as head of portfolio strategy for the closely watched UK biotech Immunocore. Koenig had this remark to offer: “With intriguing human genetics, a translatable biomarker, a committed pharma partner, and an experienced team all in place, Quartet has the key ingredients to succeed.”

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