Abeona taps ex-Alexion CCO as new chief, eyeing commercial operations

A former Alexion CCO takes the helm at the biotech, six months after his former employer made swingeing cuts. (Image: Alexion)

Abeona is tapping industry veteran Carsten Thiel, Ph.D., for its new leader in the cell and gene therapy space, with an eye to the commercial future.

Thiel’s resume is impressive, touting stints at Roche, Amgen and, most recently, Alexion, where he was EVP and chief commercial officer of the rare disease biopharma.

He takes over from former head Timothy Miller, Ph.D., who stays on as president, and also takes on the chief scientific officer role, putting him in charge of the company’s expanding clinical and preclinical research programs.

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Abeona, with a market cap of $670 million, is working on a series of trials, including a gene therapy for the lysosomal storage disease Sanfilippo B, ABO-101 and ABO-102 for related lysosomal storage disease Sanfilippo A/MPS IIIA, which has shown some promising initial data in early clinical tests.

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Abeona’s one-shot gene therapy approach to Sanfilippo A/B and other lysosomal storage diseases differs from the tack taken by other companies, notably Thiel’s former employer Alexion, that has focused on developing enzyme replacement treatments that would have to be dosed on an ongoing basis.

Until recently, Shire was another potential rival, but dropped development of its SHP610 treatment after failing to show any benefit on neurocognition in a midstage trial.

“The past year has been an extraordinary time in the history of Abeona, including significant progress in our clinical development programs and establishment of our new manufacturing facility in Cleveland,” says Steven Rouhandeh, executive chairman of Abeona. 

“As CEO, Carsten Thiel brings a unique combination of extensive experience in research and global rare disease commercialization to Abeona. In his recent positions, he successfully created value by building cohesive talented teams, driving the commercial success of multiple products globally and fostering entrepreneurial culture; all key aspects that will be critical to our success in these areas in the years ahead. We are very grateful to Tim Miller for his vision and leadership that have brought us to this pivotal stage in our business growth.”

“I am thrilled to be joining Abeona during a period of major growth and momentum in the company’s range of promising development programs,” added Thiel.  “I look forward to bringing my experience in business development, biomedical research and commercialization to the outstanding Abeona team at a time when the company is ideally positioned to rapidly expand these areas.”