Top Sanofi vaccine execs, Bristol Myers vet chart new path for IGM's antibodies in infectious diseases, autoimmunity
When IGM Biosciences made its public debut two years ago, the S-1 pitch was heavily centered on how its engineered IgM antibodies could make potent cancer treatments. But it also buried a reference, deep inside a section about the platform’s potential, about how these antibodies may be applied in a variety of conditions — citing autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases as examples.
The biotech is now creating new business units to expand its work in those exact areas. And it’s recruited a trio of experts from Big Pharma to lead them.
John Shiver, the former SVP of vaccine R&D at Sanofi Pasteur, is joining IGM as chief strategy officer of its infectious disease unit. His colleague Tong-Ming Fu, who headed Sanofi Pasteur’s vaccine research in North America, will take up the chief scientific officer spot.
Meanwhile, the IGM Autoimmunity and Inflammation department will be headed up by Mary Beth Harler, most recently head of immunology and fibrosis development at Bristol Myers Squibb.
Compared to traditional IgG antibodies, IGM says its namesake antibodies have more binding domains, leading to stronger binding and enhanced cellular signaling.
“We believe the successes we have achieved clinically and preclinically this year, together with our successes with engineering and manufacturing IgM antibodies, provide a strong basis for the expansion of our research and development efforts beyond oncology,” IGM CEO Fred Schwarzer said in a statement.
Schwarzer has been shaking up the C-suite this year, wooing Chris Takimoto from Gilead to fill the CMO post as Dan Chen — himself a big hire out of Genentech — headed out.
Then he announced IGM’s foray into infectious diseases over the summer with preclinical data on a nasally delivered antibody candidate against Covid-19.
Shiver had been with Sanofi since 2013 and took a high-profile role shepherding both its recombinant and mRNA coronavirus vaccine candidates but, according to his LinkedIn profile, quietly left last December. He began his role with IGM weeks ago.
“IgM antibodies are nature’s first line of defense against pathogens, and the preclinical data to date suggest that engineered IgM antibodies could be very helpful in treating and preventing COVID-19 and other infectious diseases,” he said.
Both the autoimmunity/inflammation and infectious disease groups will be based in the Philadelphia area, across the country from IGM’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA.