Tapped as Kymab CEO, Simon Sturge jumps back into biotech pond as Dave Chiswell steps aside
Dave Chiswell is winding down a legendary career — marking a run as Cambridge Antibody Technology’s co-founder and, later, CEO — by moving to the backseat at Kymab. And he’s found a fellow veteran in the UK biotech scene to hand over the baton.
For Simon Sturge, the CEO job marks a return to the entrepreneurial side of things after spending a combined eight years in BD roles at Merck KGaA and Boehringer Ingelheim: An early CEO of Celltech Biologics (acquired by Lonza), he also helped create the company now known as Vernalis.
In particular, with two clinical programs slated for big advances and readouts in the coming year, Kymab is beginning to think about when and who to partner with.
The discovery engine “that Kymab has built is incredibly productive,” he says. “So I think we have multiple opportunities of products we can take into the clinic and it’s really the physical resources that we have within the organization to realistically progress.”
Leading Kymab’s pipeline right now are KY1005 and KY1044, which target the OX40 ligand and ICOS respectively — both popular targets that Kymab has a “unique approach” on. The former is in Phase IIa for atopic dermatitis with plans to test it in graft-versus-host disease in 2020; the latter is being studied, both as a single agent and in combination with Roche’s Tecentriq, as an oncology drug. While that might fall short of Chiswell’s earlier vision of 5 independent products in the clinic by 2019, Sturge stresses that it still makes 4 different clinical programs.
Sturge added that the company has raised a “significant additional funding” from existing investors to follow up on a $100 million round in 2016, freeing it from any immediate financial pressure.
Meanwhile, Chiswell will remain scientific adviser to Sturge and the 175-member team.
“I’ve known Dave for a long long time, many many years, and I certainly really value his experience in building and developing companies,” Sturge said. “And so I expect that he will be advising us for quite some time in the future.”
Image: Simon Sturge. KYMAB