Drug Development

Fledgling biotech Syntimmune looks to take flight in the clinic with a new CEO and a slightly less virtual business model

David de Graaf, Syntimmune

David de Graaf, Syntimmune

Syntimmune is still a largely untethered, virtual biotech with a tiny crew of staffers backed by a platoon of consultants. But today it’s just a little less virtual and a little more focused on building a company.

David de Graaf, an experienced R&D vet, is leaving his role as a venture partner at Apple Tree and taking the helm at the biotech, which is concentrating on ramping up a slate of Phase Ib/IIa studies for a pipeline of drugs targeting IgG-mediated autoimmune diseases by blocking FcRn-IgG interactions. Burt Adelman, former R&D chief at Dyax, is joining the board. And the team will have an extra $8 million in fresh funding to get the clinical game underway in earnest.

Syntimmune was incorporated at the end of 2013, de Graaf tells me. It then in-licensed the lead drug, SYNT001 and moved the company to the point where it’s ready to make a lunge for proof-of-concept data in diseases like lupus. Technically, the company has been based in New York, where Laurence Blumberg has been primarily responsible for advancing the scientific work of his brother, Harvard’s Richard Blumberg.

“You have to be a bit of an octopus,” says de Graaf about the virtual mold, “keep lots of bowls in the air and make sure it gets done.”

De Graaf doesn’t plan to radically change that, but he does have some temporary space that he plans to exchange next year for a regular lease in Cambridge, MA, not far from his Newton home.

Not all of the five staffers — and growing — will be tethered to the new office, says de Graaf, who clearly enjoys the virtual model of drug development. But it’s a place to meet and organize the growing work at the company.


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Biomanufacturing