GSK’s Shingrix leader Guillaume Pfefer has jumped on board Flagship to helm a biotech hybrid as Afeyan’s latest CEO-partner
After spending 4 years in a senior post with GlaxoSmithKline’s star team positioning Shingrix for a blockbuster approval, Guillaume Pfefer is headed back to the biotech world — in style.
Pfefer has signed on to join Noubar Afeyan’s busy group of partners at Flagship, and he’s taking the helm of an upstart — which today is being merged with another Flagship startup — with some grand plans of its own. The announcement this morning notes that Pfefer will run Kintai Therapeutics, one of the grads of the Flagship labs.
Pfefer is taking the place of Paul-Peter Tak, the former CEO at Kintai, who’s stepping aside with an advisory role. And Kintai — which has specialized in the gut — is being merged with Senda Biosciences, which has been developing new tech to cross biological barriers with drug payloads. Scott Plevy, CSO of Senda, will now take the same title at the combined company.
This is a return to an entrepreneurial role Pfefer got to explore as CEO of Kala, one of Bob Langer’s brainchildren out of MIT that had been focused on dry eye disease. He left Kala in 2014, jumping over to join GSK. But he told the pharma giant last fall that he planned to start a new chapter of his career January 1.
And that led him back to Afeyan, who he had been keeping in touch with over the years.
“I really wanted to be on a speed boat instead of an oil tanker,” Pfefer tells me.
GSK and Big Pharma have their advantages, with deep resources to pay for big programs involved in launching a vaccine like Shingrix. But he’s happy to be back working with a crew of 50, where everyone knows each other by name.
Pfefer says he expects the company can get into the clinic within 2 years, which gives him a lengthy stretch in preclinical work. And he couldn’t be happier about it.
“I just wanted to get back to a biotech,” says the newly re-minted CEO, which is “not too big and not too small.”