Bayer oncology vet Robert LaCaze has his eyes on next steps — landing his first gig as CEO of Sadelain co-founded biotech
Three weeks after Bayer put out word that Robert LaCaze, its head of their oncology strategic business unit, was jumping ship, we now know where he’s headed: the transatlantic T-cell biotech Mnemo Therapeutics, where LaCaze will be taking up the helm and moving forward as CEO on May 1.
Founding CEO Alain Maiore is staying with the company, but is pivoting his role from CEO to COO.
Michel Sadelain, the CAR-T researcher and Juno co-founder at Memorial Sloan Kettering, had put his name and cell engineering technology behind the startup when it officially launched back in June — and he’s listed as a scientific co-founder. Maiore said at the time that they as a company were ready to bring on the next generation of cell therapies in whatever flavor they come.
About this time last year, the French biotech, which set a record last year for the highest Series A out of a French biotech at $90 million, had only 7 employees. As of this week, they are now at 45 employees — with offices and labs in Paris, New York and now Princeton, where LaCaze and some researchers will be working out of.
LaCaze told Endpoints News this morning that he had helped pick Christine Roth as his replacement at Bayer, where he had been working for the last six years. LaCaze and Roth are former colleagues — they did their frontline manager training together while they both worked at Bristol Myers Squibb back in the 1990s. So when Roth takes over his role on March 1, he will begin his transition out of Bayer and bring her up to speed on his now-former job while engaging more with Mnemo.
“But at some point in time, when I was looking at my career and what I wanted to do, you know… It’s a natural transition for me to transition to a CEO type of role. But I wanted to be very careful which type of company I went to,” LaCaze said.
And one night, LaCaze got a call, where he and Mnemo got connected.
In bringing LaCaze aboard the biotech, Maiore told Endpoints:
What I really wanted to avoid as a founder is a pitfall of many European biotech companies where the founders are glued to their chairs and they don’t know when to bring the right talent to propel the company forward. I really wanted to avoid that mistake. And you know, it’s been really a pleasant journey. The more we spoke with and talked with Robert, the more we felt that we could work well together. And so the board and investors share that perspective that Robert can make a huge contribution in putting this company on the map.
What’s next for the company? According to Maiore, one of the big goals is to raise a Series B — which he and LaCaze will do together. When the biotech raised the Series A last year, Mnemo expected it would last the biotech three years, through 2024. However, Maiore says that they are ahead of schedule in terms of research, and sparing some of the details, they are looking at raising the Series B before the three years are up.
And on the research and pipeline side, the company has a few preclinical assets in play, Maiore told Endpoints — and the biotech hopes to have completed INDs by the end of 2023.