UPDATED Dewpoint nabs ex-Sanofi CEO Brandicourt and Bayer VC chief Eckhardt for board
Bayer-partnered Dewpoint Therapeutics is adding a pair of big-name pharma vets as it looks to make drugs targeting biomolecular condensates a reality.
The Boston biotech will add former Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt and the head of Bayer’s venture arm, Jürgen Eckhardt, to its board. Though both MDs, the pair has held long careers on the business side of the industry, which is where their insight will be needed most, said Dewpoint CEO Amir Nashat.
“The biggest issue for biotechs is, you know, your business,” Nashat told Endpoints News.
And, given the long runtimes in biotech, you need that experience early. “It’s really a game of trying to predict what are the things that can happen in this trial and that program and be prepared and hedge, because everything’s so slow in biotech,” he said. “If you want to redo an experiment, a Phase II, it’s going to take 2 years and $50 million.”
Nashat also noted that a large part of Dewpoint’s work involves partnering with pharma companies. That was on display in November, when they signed a $100 million deal with Bayer to combine the biotech’s knowledge of the underlying biology with the German pharma’s small molecule library to find drugs for cardiovascular and gynecological indications. “So having two people with a lot of experience in that part of the business will be great,” he said.
Launched a little over a year ago by Polaris, where Nashat is a partner, the company is built around the revived biology of biomolecular condensates — membraneless, liquid-like droplets of RNA and protein that can speed or slow down reactions. Although scientists have known about them for over a century, only recently have researchers uncovered their links to diseases, such as ALS.
Eckhardt has led Leaps since 2016, after serving at a different venture firm, and is on the board of BlueRock, Joyn Bio, Khloris, Oerth Bio, Immunitas and eGenesis. He joins the board by virtue of Bayer’s investment in the company’s Series A, not Bayer’s drug discovery partnership, Nashat said.
The venture capitalist praised the company’s potential but noted it was still early.
“This is opening up a whole new field of potential targets,” he told Endpoints. “But it will take time, the company started really only last year.”
Brandicourt replaced Chris Viehbacher as Sanofi CEO in 2015 and tried to shake up its long-struggling R&D arm, but was ultimately replaced last year with Paul Hudson, who, alongside the board, executed his own strategic shift. Originally trained as an infectious and tropical disease specialist, he joined Pfizer’s medical affairs team in 2000 and ran Bayer from 2013 to 2015. In February, he joined Alnylam’s board.
Dewpoint put lab work on hold at the start of the pandemic, but is recently back in full swing, both in Boston and at their facilities in Berlin and Dresden, where the coronavirus has been brought under control to a far greater degree. The biotech isn’t looking to have a drug in the clinic in the next year, but Nashat wouldn’t comment further. Beyond a year, “a biotech is kind of guessing,” he said.
Still, Eckhardt and Brandicourt’s experience may be important for a company that hopes to both spinout and have commercial ambitions. The pair will also be part of the board that recruits Nashat’s replacement. In keeping with Polaris’ philosophy, the biotech will find a new CEO once it’s in a position to attract a top talent and Nashat will return to Polaris full-time.
“We want to be intentional about finding someone who can map the future of the company, all the way through,” he said. “Until we find someone who can do that, I’m able to perform.”