Tuyen Ong, Flagship CEO-partner and Ring Therapeutics CEO (Flagship)

Keep­ing an 'im­mi­grant mind­set,' Flag­ship taps a self-pro­fessed no­mad as CEO for their next-gen vi­ral vec­tor up­start

Tuyen Ong con­sid­ers him­self a bit of a no­mad.

Ear­ly in his life, he came to the UK as a refugee from Viet­nam, and ob­tained his MD at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. Then he went to NYU for an MBA and be­gan his ca­reer in bio­phar­ma at Pfiz­er, mak­ing fur­ther stops across the coun­try at Bausch + Lomb, PTC Ther­a­peu­tics and most re­cent­ly Bio­gen.

Now, he’s ready for his next gig: CEO-part­ner at Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing and CEO of Ring Ther­a­peu­tics, a gene ther­a­py out­fit where he’ll be run­ning the show. When Ong looks back at his ca­reer, he says he can see how all the dots con­nect­ed to lead him to this point.

“Noubar [Afeyan] is our founder and he’s an im­mi­grant, and that im­mi­grant mind­set is some­what in our DNA at Flag­ship,” Ong told End­points News. “The abil­i­ty to be able to solve prob­lems, be able to be cre­ative, be able to have that pi­o­neer­ing spir­it to over­come is­sues and find op­por­tu­ni­ty, I think that is a com­mon thread that’s tied through my life, and that’s the phi­los­o­phy I’ve been able to in­ject in­to dif­fer­ent ar­eas of my ca­reer.”

Ring it­self was of­fi­cial­ly launched by Flag­ship in 2017 and fo­cus­es its re­search around a new class of vi­ral shells called anellovirus­es. The com­pa­ny hopes it can be an al­ter­na­tive to ade­n­ovirus-as­so­ci­at­ed virus­es, or AAV, and pro­vide safer gene ther­a­py treat­ments.

Ong said he was drawn to the po­si­tion not on­ly be­cause of his in­ter­est in the gene ther­a­py space — he pre­vi­ous­ly worked at Night­star, which, af­ter be­ing ac­quired by Bio­gen, was how he end­ed up there in the first place — but the abil­i­ty to cre­ate such a plat­form in a more “nat­ur­al” way. That’s be­cause the anellovirus fam­i­ly re­sides in var­i­ous tis­sues in the hu­man body with­out caus­ing any harm.

“These virus­es have ba­si­cal­ly co­hab­it­ed, co-evolved with­in the hu­man sys­tem,” Ong said. “They are be­nign and they’ve some­what evad­ed the im­mune sys­tem. The gene ther­a­py field is thriv­ing but it has hit a few road­blocks, and a lot of what’s dri­ving that is the im­muno­genic­i­ty piece.”

Avak Kahve­jian

Where­as AAV-re­lat­ed gene ther­a­pies can cause a range of ill­ness­es and some pa­tients may al­ready have de­vel­oped an­ti­bod­ies to the treat­ments, anellovirus­es don’t come with as many side ef­fects and can still be used to treat a wide range of dis­eases, found­ing Ring CEO Avak Kahve­jian said. The com­pa­ny orig­i­nal­ly start­ed out with just a hand­ful of anellovirus­es but over the last few years has un­cov­ered “thou­sands” that could po­ten­tial­ly prove use­ful.

Kahve­jian and Ong aren’t quite ready to say in which fields they’re first look­ing to ap­ply the plat­form, but not­ed that the spot­light will be across mul­ti­ple modal­i­ties as well as a swath of dis­eases. And be­cause the sci­ence is still so new, Ring is still work­ing on the best plan of at­tack go­ing for­ward.

“Ring is ex­plor­ing all as­pects of this vi­ral fam­i­ly. Dis­cov­er­ing them, en­gi­neer­ing them, mak­ing them and ap­ply­ing them,” Kahve­jian said. “The fo­cus has been on get­ting do­min­ion over this new, ex­cit­ing area from all as­pects.”

As Ring con­tin­ues ad­vanc­ing this re­search, Kahve­jian says Flag­ship has found some­one who can get pas­sion­ate about their vi­sion in Ong. In their search for the CEO-part­ner, Kahve­jian didn’t just look for some­one with a great track record, but al­so some­one with such “in­tan­gi­bles.”

The com­pa­ny al­ready banked $50 mil­lion back in late 2019, in­di­cat­ing Flag­ship has al­ready liked what they’ve seen. But Ong is con­fi­dent that the best is yet to come.

“I tru­ly see this as a trans­for­ma­tive ther­a­py that can hit up­on so many dif­fer­ent dis­eases,” Ong said. “It’s al­most an ode to Moth­er Na­ture: We owe it to re­al­ly take up the gift that we’ve been giv­en here, the pow­er of anellovirus­es to be able to be de­ployed to treat so many dif­fer­ent ge­net­ic dis­eases.”

Op­ti­miz­ing Cell and Gene Ther­a­py De­vel­op­ment and Pro­duc­tion: How Tech­nol­o­gy Providers Like Corn­ing Life Sci­ences are Spurring In­no­va­tion

Remarkable advances in cell and gene therapy over the last decade offer unprecedented therapeutic promise and bring new hope for many patients facing diseases once thought incurable. However, for cell and gene therapies to reach their full potential, researchers, manufacturers, life science companies, and academics will need to work together to solve the significant challenges facing the industry.

Amid mon­key­pox fears, biotechs spring to ac­tion; Mod­er­na’s CFO trou­ble; Cuts, cuts every­where; Craft­ing the right pro­teins; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

It’s always a bittersweet moment saying goodbye, but as Josh Sullivan goes off to new adventures we are grateful for the way he’s built up the Endpoints Manufacturing section — which the rest of the team will now carry forward. If you’re not already, this may be a good time to sign up for your weekly dose of drug manufacturing news. Thank you for reading and wish you a restful weekend.

Bay­er sounds re­treat from a $670 mil­lion CAR-T pact in the wake of a pa­tient death

Two months after Atara Biotherapeutics hit the hold button on its lead CAR-T 2.0 therapy following a patient death, putting the company under the watchful eye of the FDA, its Big Pharma partners at Bayer are bowing out of a $670 million global alliance. And the move is forcing a revamp of Atara’s pipeline plans, even as research execs vow to continue work on the two drugs allied with Bayer 18 months ago, which delivered a $60 million cash upfront.

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Martin Shkreli (Dennis Van Tine/MediaPunch/IPX)

In­fa­mous biotech ex­ec Mar­tin Shkre­li gets out of prison, hits the street

Martin Shkreli, the infamous biotech CEO who made headlines for his jeering assault on a legion of critics in and out of Congress, is back on the streets after 4 years inside a federal penitentiary.

Shkreli’s attorney put out a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that the “pharma bro” had been transferred to a halfway house in New York with a few more months to go under federal custody, slated to end September 14. Attorney Benjamin Brafman acknowledged the release and vowed that he and Shkreli are keeping quiet.

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Sanofi and Re­gen­eron clear the fin­ish line in an in­flam­ma­to­ry esoph­a­gus dis­ease, leav­ing Take­da in the dust

With atopic dermatitis rivals breathing down Dupixent’s neck, Sanofi and Regeneron on Friday secured a first win in new territory in what Sanofi’s head of immunology and inflammation Naimish Patel called the fastest approval he’s ever seen.

The FDA approved Dupixent on Friday to treat patients 12 years and older with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an inflammatory condition that causes swelling and scarring of the esophagus. The approval came just a couple months after regulators granted Dupixent priority review, and months ahead of its PDUFA date on Aug. 3.

Fu­ji­film con­tin­ues its biotech build­ing spree with new fa­cil­i­ty in Chi­na

A Japanese conglomerate is making a big play in China with the opening of a new facility, as it continues to expand.

Fujifilm Irvine Scientific has opened its new Innovation and Collaboration Center in Suzhou New District, China, an area in Jiangsu province specifically designated for technological and industrial development.

According to Fujifilm, the 12,000-square-foot site will be responsible for the company’s cell culture media optimization, analysis and design services. Cell culture media itself often requires customization of formulas and protocols to achieve the desired quantity and quality of therapeutic desired. Fujifilm Irvine Scientific is offering these services from its headquarters in California and Japan to its customers globally, as well as in China now.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

French pres­i­dent names Stéphane Ban­cel a Cheva­lier for Mod­er­na's Covid tri­umph

Moderna’s rapid fire development of its hugely successful mRNA vaccine for Covid saved lives, changed the vaccine industry forever and made CEO Stéphane Bancel a billionaire. But perhaps the sweetest reward came this week, when Bancel was named a Chevalier — basically knighted — by the president of France.

Prestigious European titles like this are rare in biopharma, but not unknown, as AstraZeneca’s Mene Pangalos could tell you after being knighted by the Queen, named on the honors list in 2020 for his contribution to science.

Try­ing to shake up the Parkin­son's par­a­digm, Ab­b­Vie sub­mits NDA for con­tin­u­ous, 24-hour in­fu­sion ther­a­py

AbbVie is approaching the FDA with a new therapy to potentially treat Parkinson’s disease, using prodrugs of two medications commonly used for the condition.

The Big Pharma submitted its NDA for ABBV-951, a solution of levodopa and carbidopa prodrugs being evaluated in advanced Parkinson’s patients who don’t respond well to oral therapy, AbbVie announced Friday morning. Researchers are hoping a positive Phase III study that reads out in late October will help move things along quickly at the agency.

Siddhartha Mukherjee (Brian Ach/Getty Images for The New Yorker)

All Blue's $733M bid to ac­quire Zymeworks turns hos­tile as board bat­tles back — af­ter a biotech celebri­ty jumps in

Yesterday, the team at All Blue Capital — bent on the takeover of a badly battered Zymeworks — brought in celebrated oncologist, Pulitzer prize-winning writer and biotech exec Siddhartha Mukherjee to add some glitz to their proposed board. But they’re still not winning over any converts.

This morning, Zymeworks’ board officially turned this acquisition offer into a hostile showdown, rejecting the unsolicited offer and marshaling its forces to prevent a buyout at $10.50 per share.

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