Novartis oncology vet Stefan Scherer joins biotech migration to head clinical work, CAR-T partnership at Cellectis

Cellectis $CLLS has been busy since Allogene Therapeutics launched in April with a Pfizer deal that made them overnight partners, raising $164 million to hustle its off-the-shelf CAR-T therapies along the clinic. And it’s now hired a Novartis veteran to bolster that accelerated timeline.

Stefan Scherer

Stefan Scherer’s official title will be senior vice president clinical development and deputy chief medical officer, reporting to CMO and R&D chief Stéphane Depil from the French biotech’s New York office.

This will be Scherer’s second time around the C-suite as he joins the migration of Big Pharma research leaders into biotech. Before joining Novartis — eventually moving up to head of early development, strategy and innovation for US oncology — he had a stint as CMO at Swiss diagnostics company Biocartis. He worked on cancer biomarkers for Roche prior to that.

The team at Allogene led by Arie Belldegrun and David Chang — the top execs at Kite Pharma until Gilead bought them out for $12 billion — has taken charge of developing UCART19, Cellectis’ early-stage lead therapy.

Cellectis CEO André Choulika previously told Endpoints News he thinks that the collaboration between that team and his company’s know-how on gene editing will give them a shot at commercialization work in late 2021 or ’22. In a press release, he indicated that Scherer will likely play a key role in that partnership:

Stefan’s deep medical expertise, strong track record of alliance- and relationship-building and previous C-level experience, all position him to make an immediate impact on the development and long-term strategic planning for Cellectis’ innovative product portfolio.

Cellectis is also developing UCART123, which got back on track with a Phase I trial after getting hit by a clinical halt months ago.

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