Ex­clu­sive: Affi­ni-T taps Sanofi alum to lead hunt for part­ner­ships; Alk­er­mes locks in CEO for on­col­o­gy spin­out

Affi­ni-T is look­ing for a part­ner as its KRAS-tar­get­ing T cell re­cep­tor ther­a­pies near the clin­ic — and it’s bring­ing on a Sanofi vet­er­an to lead the way.

The com­pa­ny on Fri­day an­nounced its ap­point­ment of Thamin­da Ra­manayake as chief busi­ness of­fi­cer, who pre­vi­ous­ly served as VP and glob­al head of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, on­col­o­gy at Sanofi. Affi­ni-T is an­tic­i­pat­ing IND fil­ings by the end of this year for the KRAS G12V pro­grams AFNT-111 and AFNT-211, and as Ra­manayake said, “There is no bet­ter time to think about part­ner­ships.”

KRAS is a pro­tein reg­u­lat­ing how cells grow and di­vide, and mu­ta­tions can cause the pro­tein to get stuck in the “on” po­si­tion, trig­ger­ing un­con­trolled ma­lig­nant cell growth. The first gen­er­a­tion of KRAS in­hibitors, in­clud­ing Am­gen’s Lumakras (so­tora­sib) and Mi­rati’s Kraza­ti (ada­gra­sib), tar­get a mu­ta­tion called G12C to lock the pro­tein in “off” mode.

“We think there’s an op­por­tu­ni­ty here to ex­pand be­yond G12C,” Affi­ni-T CEO Jak Knowles said on Thurs­day. Affi­ni-T was fea­tured in last year’s End­points 11 list of top pri­vate biotechs.

Ra­manayake helped shape the on­col­o­gy busi­ness strat­e­gy at Sanofi, and be­fore that served as se­nior di­rec­tor of BD and strat­e­gy at Bio­Marin and glob­al trans­ac­tions lead at Am­gen. He called his path a “windy road,” adding that at one point he con­sid­ered a ca­reer in re­search, but de­cid­ed against it be­cause it was “too far from the pa­tient.” BD, he added, is the right spot “if you’re pas­sion­ate about in­no­va­tion, if you’re pas­sion­ate about pa­tient care.”

“The old way of drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment is not go­ing to be suc­cess­ful when it comes to on­col­o­gy,” Ra­manayake said. “You have to part­ner, you have to work to­geth­er.”

Nicole De­Feud­is

Endpoints News

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Life Sciences Senior Associate

General Catalyst

San Francisco, CA, USA