People, Workforce

Sam Kulkarni takes the helm at CRISPR Therapeutics as founding CEO steps down

After steering CRISPR Therapeutics to an IPO last year as the last of the big three gene editing companies to make the leap into the public markets, founding CEO Rodger Novak is stepping down and handing the reins over to the original chief business development officer, Samarth Kulkarni.

Sam Kulkarni

There’s no specific reason given for Novak’s departure, other than the generic “personal reasons” often cited during these kinds of changeups. Novak is staying on the board.

But he’s leaving just ahead of a key step for the company $CRSP, which is looking to start a clinical program in β-thalassemia next year. CRISPR and its two chief rivals in the field — Editas as well as Intellia — have been jockeying for the pole position in launching the first human studies for gene editing.

Elevated to president last May, Kulkarni played a big role in setting up high-profile collaborations with Bayer — creating the 50/50 startup Casebia — as well as Vertex. And just a few weeks ago the biotech — based in Switzerland with a big research group in Cambridge, MA — tied the partnership knot with Marcela Maus, who runs the cellular immunotherapy group at Mass General. She’ll be using the biotech’s pioneering CRISPR/Cas9 tech to see how it works in building a new-and-improved T cell therapy — just as the original models appear poised to hit the market later in the year.

“CRISPR Therapeutics has become the preeminent gene editing company under Rodger’s outstanding direction. We thank him for this leadership and look forward to his continued contributions with the board,” said Anthony Coles, chairman of the  board at CRISPR Therapeutics.


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