Flagship woos another Big Pharma BD exec to biotech. Red blood cell therapies anyone?
Flagship Pioneering — which has built a reputation for stocking its portfolio companies with Big Pharma vets — has raided J&J again for a dealmaker.
Most recently, Jim Jogerst was senior director of business development at Janssen’s infectious diseases and vaccines business. He will now become Rubius Therapeutics’ chief business officer, tasked with identifying partnerships, collaborations and alliances, according to CEO Pablo Cagnoni.
The timing is ripe.
Launched in 2015, Rubius had one of the more unusual takes on cell therapy at the time, leveraging oxygen-carrying red blood cells to sneak in immune-stimulating receptors that it believes can trigger an attack on cancer or fix autoimmune disorders.
Not only did it draw attention for the amount of private money raised as a preclinical biotech, it also became an instant darling on Wall Street, bagging $241 million for its IPO.
But the money and an intensive hiring drive to suck talent out of more experienced pharma groups — Cagnoni is a Novartis recruit himself — didn’t keep Rubius from running into manufacturing issues or getting disappointing data. Last March, it decided to scrap the lead program, sending shares into a nosedive.
Earlier this year, though, Rubius came back with the first cut of the human data for its new lead cancer drug, suggesting that the red blood cell platform could help some patients with really tough solid tumors.
It will now be up to Jogerst to sell that story to potential partners. Before joining J&J, he had overseen licensing and M&A for Novartis’ Alcon as well as the specialty pharmaceutical player Adare.