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
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