Trained as a lawyer, Jeff Jonker has a lot in common with Merck’s Ken Frazier, who was in charge of defending Merck’s controversial Vioxx in the courts before rising to the post of CEO in 2011. Jonker — part of the executive team at NGM Bio that inked a $450 million research deal with Merck in 2015 — has now also risen to the ranks of CEO, at Third Rock-backed Ambys Medicines.
The announcement comes months after the company — named after the Mexican salamander famed for regenerating limbs: Ambystoma mexicanum — secured $140 million in launch money and an elusive deal with Japan’s Takeda. The Redwood City, California-based company is targeting liver disease on three fronts: cell therapy for liver regeneration; gene therapy for liver restoration; and small molecule therapy to replace lost protein function.
Jonker takes over the reins from Third Rock’s venture partner Jeff Tong, who was brought in to serve as interim CEO until a permanent executive was found. Tong will now move to the role of chairman, while Third Rock’s Charles Homcy and Takeda’s Asit Parikh will remain as directors. A smattering of other Third Rock execs continue to hold key positions at the biotech, including Jeffrey Finer (CTO) and Glenn Pierce (CMO).
Jonker, who holds a JD from the Columbia University School of Law, joins Ambys from NGM Bio, where he served as president. He has previously worked at Theravance and other biopharma companies including Genentech, which is now part of the Swiss giant Roche.
Before moving into the biopharma world, Jonker was an associate with Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, representing clients in the life science and high tech industries.
Image: Jeff Jonker. AMBYS
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