Acceleron CMO to retire, but only after key data readout

Acceleron CMO Matthew Sherman (left) and CEO Habib Dable. (Image: Acceleron)

After more than a decade in the role, Acceleron’s chief medical officer Matthew Sherman, M.D., has announced he will be leaving the company—but will wait for pivotal results on its lead candidate luspatercept.

Sherman will retire after data from two phase 3 trials of Celgene-partnered luspatercept for anemia associated with rare blood diseases—expected mid-year—and has said he intends to remain in an advisory capacity at Acceleron for a further 12 months or so.

The timing of Sherman’s departure may raise a few eyebrows, but Acceleron’s recently-appointed new CEO Habib Dable—a former Bayer Pharma head who took over the helm of the company after the retirement of John Knopf in late 2016—said in a statement that it was a planned move. Like Knopf, Sherman was a former executive at Wyeth.

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The company will “continue to benefit from Matt’s expertise in support of the anticipated process for regulatory approval of luspatercept,” according to Dable. Meantime, Acceleron has kicked off a search for a new CMO.

Dable has previously suggested luspatercept has the potential to become a multibillion-dollar product, with a market entry slated for next year, so it is surprising that Sherman is moving on at such a significant point in the drug’s development.

Luspatercept is clearly a project close to Sherman’s heart, as he oversaw the phase 1 and 2 trials of the drug, which came out of Acceleron’s in-house R&D. It is designed to promote the production of red blood cells by targeting transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) proteins involved in red cell differentiation and maturation.

Results from a phase 2 trial in myelodysplastic syndromes were published in the Lancet Oncology last year, and Acceleron expects to report data from the phase 3 MEDALIST trial in MDS, as well as the late-stage BELIEVE study in beta-thalassemia within the next few months.

Acceleron is also starting a new phase 3 trial of the drug as a first-line therapy for lower-risk MDS patients, and mid-stage testing in non-transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia as well as myelofibrosis.

“I am truly proud of our achievements at Acceleron over the last twelve years,” said Sherman. “I am looking forward to continuing to work on the luspatercept program. Acceleron is well-positioned for continued success and I am excited about the future of the company in all areas.”

Acceleron and Celgene have been working on the TGF-beta program since 2008, initially focusing on another candidate called sotatercept that has been superseded by luspatercept and was recently taken back in-house by Acceleron as a therapy for pulmonary artery hypertension.

It also suffered a setback last June after a failed phase 2 trial of its advanced renal cell carcinoma candidate dalantercept led to the abandonment of the candidate.