Alkermes' head of early R&D jumps ship to newly created Harvard role
Alkermes’ head of early development is leaving the biotech for a newly created position as executive director of therapeutic translation at Harvard Medical School.
Mark Namchuk leaves after 5 years as Alkermes’ senior vice president of pharmaceutical and non-clinical development. His departure comes as Alkermes reorients their R&D program after high-profile struggles.
Namchuk’s job will be to lead the recently created Harvard Therapeutics Initiative. The hire is part of Harvard’s increasingly committed foray into biotech, one that includes an Arie Belldegrun-affilaited 36-acre research campus and, with a consortium of collaborators, a blueprinted $50 million gene and cell therapy center.
The Initiative was set up as part of a $200 million donation, the largest in Harvard Medical School history, from the Blavatnik Family Foundation last November to “accelerate the pace of therapeutic discovery and support initiatives aimed at solving some of humanity’s most acute biomedical challenges.”
At the time, HMS hinted they would seek to bring in scientists from industry. One of the main goals of the initiative was to break down the “cultural divide between academic and industry scientists” that impeded research. Broadly, the initiative sought to improve translational work through a better understanding of biological mechanisms. They set to boost the capacity of the Harvard Cryo-Electron Microscopy Center for Structural Biology to better understand proteins that affect tumor resistance to chemotherapy as well as bacterial resistance to antibiotics, improve single-cell sequencing, and advance high through-put screening for drugs.
Namchuk’s departure comes less than two months after Alkermes slashed 160 jobs in a restructuring meant to save $150 million. Although they recently got an MS drug approved in collaboration with Biogen, the FDA refused to consider their treatment-resistant depression drug ALKS 5461 last year and analysts are bearish on their next drug, ALKS 3831. They shifted to focus on CNS and oncology, most notably buying out neurological biotech Rodin for $950 million.
Prior to Alkermes, Namchuk worked for 17 years at Vertex, contributing to their cystic fibrosis research and once briefly serving as interim R&D chief.