Exclusive: Former Intercept CMO lands new gig at Q32 Bio, two weeks after leaving the NASH biotech
Just two weeks ago, Intercept CMO Jason Campagna followed the biotech’s founding CEO out the door to pursue other opportunities, per an SEC filing, as analysts sense a major shift taking place at the company. Now, that new opportunity has come to light.
Campagna is taking the same CMO position at Q32 Bio, the company announced Tuesday morning, joining CEO Mike Broxson’s team in Cambridge, MA as they explore the next generation of complement drugs. The move comes after Q32 pulled in two fundraising rounds in 2020 totaling more than $100 million and as the biotech is in IND-enabling studies for its lead program, dubbed ADX-097.
Campagna wouldn’t comment on the speculation around Intercept’s inner-workings or future. Through a Q32 spokesperson, Campagna preemptively declined comment Tuesday on all matters related to his old company.
Broxson and Campagna live fairly close to one another — “we could probably throw a rock at each other’s houses,” Campagna told Endpoints News. They started meeting for coffee sometime last fall, taking appropriate pandemic precautions, and Campagna said he was very direct with Broxson in asking how Q32’s programs would appeal to patients and doctors.
But what ultimately stood out to the now-CMO was the data Q32 had produced in a mouse model for its systemic drugs. The question surrounding such programs, Campagna said, always involves whether or not the drugs can get to the injured tissue when delivered systemically.
So as Campagna recalls it, Broxson pulled out his iPad during one of their coffee meetings and showed him the goods. Not only did the Q32 data illustrate a lack of off-site toxicity, but they demonstrated that the compounds can stay in the injured mouse tissue for about 10 days. That became the “linchpin” of Campagna’s thinking, he said.
“If tissues in the body are not being exposed to the compound, and primarily accumulating where the injury is occurring, you don’t get better than that in terms of getting a shot on goal,” Campagna said. “I never saw anything that approximated that kind of pharmacokinetics. That was the magic moment.”
Q32 is shooting for a registrational filing for ADX-097 sometime at the beginning of next year, but Broxson told Endpoints it could come at the end of 2021. They’re looking at several diseases to start, including some in the kidneys as well as lupus. The goal with an ultimate Phase I trial is to establish the same proof-of-mechanism in humans that Q32 saw in the mice.
Campagna’s departure from Intercept came roughly two and a half months after the biotech abruptly announced founding CEO Mark Pruzanski had been replaced at the helm. Intercept emphasized there was no “disagreement regarding any matter related to the Company’s operations, policies, or practices” when Campagna left.
Though an Intercept spokesperson denied to Endpoints two weeks ago that there was any shift, analysts are asking whether the exits of Pruzanski and now Campagna have prompted the company to move away from its signature NASH programs in the wake of an FDA rejection last June. Campagna had led Intercept’s NASH efforts after he was hired from The Medicines Company in 2016, before being promoted to CMO in 2019.