Peer Review, People

Retire? Bill Chin’s tried it three times, and he’d rather be working at Frequency Therapeutics

William Chin’s resume sprints through 25 years of prestigious posts: Harvard professor, a senior VP of global research at Eli Lilly, back to Harvard as executive dean for research, then on to PhRMA as their head of science and regulatory affairs.

Now he’s going to a small biotech in Woburn, MA which is trying to do some breakthrough work on the 2.0 version of regenerative medicine. 

Why?

The simple answer, he tells me, starts when he stepped down from PhRMA at the beginning of this year. It was his third retirement.

“My wife said after this third time I really did have to retire,” he says. 

But like before, it just wouldn’t stick.

“Maybe some people are just not destined to do it — can’t do it, or have a flaw,” he says. “I have to be intellectually stimulated to keep going; wouldn’t want to take a position that didn’t have interesting challenges.”

So now Chin is the new chief medical officer at Frequency Therapeutics, where there are plenty of interesting challenges in giving birth to a new kind of regenerative medicine. 

Bob Langer

Frequency is a venture-backed startup that gained $32 million a year ago to see if they could take the lab work done by MIT’s Bob Langer and Jeff Karp — one of Langer’s legion of students who’s helped launch new companies — and put it to work creating a new therapy for hearing loss.

Langer and Karp discovered a few years ago that there are cells in the inner ear that can be stimulated through the right set of factors to differentiate into hair cells. And Chin’s arrival coincided with the end of a Phase I safety study, with a Phase II proof-of-concept study lying ahead. If they can show that their locally delivered, small molecule treatment can regenerate high frequency hearing — which can be lost through too many rock concerts or age — they can go into a pivotal trial.

Jeff Karp

After that, there are some new initiatives underway in the company to tackle much, much harder targets, like making beta cells for curing Type 1 diabetes. Beyond that there is a world of possibility — regenerating muscles, or remyelination for MS — and that really would be quite a scientific trek.

But then Chin may never be ready to retire, no matter what his wife tells him now.


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