MacroGenics loses CMO Jon Wigginton as commercialization looms
The next few months are important for MacroGenics. They may soon have their first approved drug. They could even defeat mountainous odds and eclipse Keytruda in a head to head trial.
But whatever they do, they’ll do it without longtime CMO Jon Wigginton.
The cancer biotech announced yesterday that after 7 years, Wigginton will leave the company at the end of the month to pursue a new opportunity. CSO Ezio Bonvini will assume his role while MacroGenics searches for a replacement.
Wigginton came to MacroGenics in 2013 as VP of clinical development, after helping run Bristol-Myers Squibb’s immuno-oncology program. Before that, he worked at Merck and spent 14 years doing translational research at the National Cancer Institute.
The company Wigginton joined had recently pivoted from an antibody developer whose targets ranged from diabetes to West Nile virus to one principally focused on cancer. With a Pfizer partnership and a platform acquired from Raven Therapeutics, they had just presented their first Phase I ASCO data on margetuximab, the Raven-developed chimeric HER2 antibody that would become their lead drug. It was designed to give the benefits of Herceptin while also triggering an immune attack.
The antibody had just gone into Phase II trials. MacroGenics, about to go public, brought him in, touting his clinical experience in immuno-oncology.
”In particular, his leadership in the innovative design of clinical studies for rapidly advancing the field of immune checkpoint therapeutics will prove valuable in maximizing the potential of our oncology portfolio,” CEO Scott Koenig said at the time.
Wigginton has since helped usher margetuximab through a Phase III trial that showed it was superior — albeit not majorly so — to Herceptin and a subsequent BLA filing last year. Meanwhile, after working on PD-1 and PD-L1 at Bristol-Myers, he helped develop MacroGenics’ PD-1 inhibitor MGA012. In partnership with Incyte, that drug is now in several late-stage trials, including against Keytruda.
There are lingering questions about the pipeline Wigginton helped build. Commercially, the best opportunities for margetuximab will come with future data on earlier lines of gastric and breast cancer, SVB Leerink’s Jonathan Chang recently wrote. And the readouts on MGA012 and some earlier stage assets could always come up bust (it’s unlikely to beat out Keytruda, for instance).
Still, Chang was optimistic.
“Beyond margetuximab, MGNX has one of the broadest and deepest pipelines of proprietary and partnered bispecific antibodies in clinical development,” he wrote. “We are impressed with MGNX’s prolific R&D engine.”