Five months after Third Rock partner Abbie Celniker officially launched Rheos Medicines with an aim at becoming a leader in immunometabolism, the startup has wooed a top Roche scientist to the helm.
Sanjay Keswani has been named CEO at the Cambridge, MA-based company, joining a large migration of top executives leaving Big Pharma for the fast-growing start-up crowd.
Recruiting Keswani is a coup for Third Rock.
He had been a senior vice president and global head of the Neuroscience, Ophthalmology and Rare diseases unit for Roche’s pRED organization, based in Basel. Before that he had a broad portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, with earlier stints at Eli Lilly and Amgen.
These top researchers in Big Pharma have become an attractive group of recruits in biotech, where venture money has been pumping billions of dollars into startups in need of new executive teams.
At Rheos, there’s an early focus on CD4 and CD8 T cells, which play a role in autoimmune diseases as well as immuno-oncology. Third Rock provided a $60 million launch fund for the company to get started.
“There is an immense opportunity to change the therapeutic paradigm for treating diseases that involve the immune system, and Rheos is ideally positioned to set a new standard by targeting the underlying cellular metabolism of immune cells to treat a wide range of diseases,” said Keswani in a statement.
Image: Sanjay Keswani. RHEOS MEDICINES
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