A new year, another new CEO at Syntimmune as Biogen, Sanofi veteran takes charge

Leaders have the responsibility of holding team members accountable for their actions and commitments, but this is easier said than done.
Syntimmune installed a new CEO in November 2016, but it's change at the top again.

Just over a year ago Syntimmune announced Boehringer and Pfizer veteran David de Graaf, Ph.D., as its new CEO. Thirteen months later, he’s out the door, with a new leader at the helm.

Jean-Paul Kress, M.D., becomes president and CEO of the autoimmune biotech, leaving behind his role at Biogen, where he spent just six months as its EVP, president, international, and head of global therapeutic operations.

Kress served on DMD biotech Sarepta’s board and was the former head of North America at Sanofi-Genzyme. He’s also had stints at Sanofi Pasteur, Gilead and Eli Lilly.

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Meanwhile, de Graaf has “stepped down from his position as CEO and resigned from the company’s board of directors,” the biotech notes, but adds no color as to why.

Syntimmune co-founder Laurence Blumberg, M.D., also COO of the biotech, gave little away and praised the former head. “We are grateful for David de Graaf’s many contributions during a period of substantial progress at Syntimmune, during which we initiated two mid-stage clinical trials of our lead candidate, SYNT001, and completed a successful series B financing that has positioned us well for further advancement.”

Syntimmune, which launched back in 2013, is seeking to develop new treatments for IgG-mediated autoimmune diseases via its first-in-class lead candidate SYNT001, which is phase 1 and 2 tests.

Since its founding, Syntimmune has seen $78 million in capital commitments from VCs and investors, led by Apple Tree Partners and including Partners Innovation Fund, FMB Research, and the AFB Fund.

RELATED: Apple Tree helps Big Apple biotech Syntimmune in $50M series B

“Jean-Paul possesses decades of experience bringing to market therapies based on breakthrough science,” said Burt Adelman, M.D., Syntimmune’s lead independent director and adviser to the company.

“We are very pleased to welcome this industry veteran at the helm of Syntimmune. We believe Jean-Paul’s leadership brings vision and expertise that will be transformational as the company matures toward becoming a late-stage development organization and continues to rapidly advance therapies targeting FcRn biology to patients.”

The biotech has two additional earlier-stage therapeutic programs targeting other aspects of FcRn biology.

FcRn is a central mediator of IgG-related immunity and part of an important pathway that enables abnormal IgG responses in a large number of clinical settings, including autoimmune disease.

There are currently no commercially available therapies designed to block IgG-FcRn interactions, which underlie diseases that affect multiple organ systems and for which there are continuing substantial medical needs, such as inflammatory bowel disease, lupus erythematosus, dermatomyositis and others.

“I am excited to join the accomplished team at Syntimmune, which possesses world-class expertise in immunology and FcRn biology applicable to a broad range of autoimmune diseases,” added Kress.

“Syntimmune has made important strides in advancing its clinical development pipeline, and I look forward to the progress of the company’s ongoing Phase 1b/2a clinical trials of SYNT001 in pemphigus and warm autoimmune hemolytic anemia, as well as the anticipated commencement of clinical studies in additional indications.”