After being snapped up by Alexion, Syntimmune's CEO joins MorphoSys

Former Syntimmune CEO Jean-Paul Kress, M.D., exited after the company was bought out by Alexion Pharmaceuticals late last year. (MorphoSys)

New York rare disease biotech Syntimmune has had a roller-coaster few years, losing CEOs, gaining new ones and then being snapped up by Alexion Pharmaceuticals in 2018 for up to $1.2 billion.

That deal has seen the relatively new chief, former Sanofi and Biogen executive Jean-Paul Kress, M.D., leave the company to become CEO at Germany-based cancer biotech MorphoSys.

Kress became CEO at Syntimmune at the start of 2018, taking over from Boehringer and Pfizer veteran David de Graaf, Ph.D., who had only been at the helm for 13 months.

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

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Alexion bought out his former company in November. Kress will now run MorphoSys, which raised a hefty $208 million through its IPO listing in April 2018, topping its $150 million goal and without the help of its previous investors.

Those proceeds gave MorphoSys more than $500 million in total to help develop its CD19 antibody MOR208, which it believes can compete with chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies with safer, more durable anticancer efficacy and without the complexity that comes with cell therapies.

The company is aiming for an FDA approval in relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma based on midphase data and a breakthrough therapy designation, with the goal of bringing MOR208 to market in the first half of next year.

Earlier this year, Planegg, Germany-based MorphoSys also picked up EMD Serono’s senior commercial vice president of oncology David Trexler to serve as president of its U.S. subsidiary.

Unlike Syntimmune, MorphoSys has not seen a revolving door of CEOs over the past few years: Kress takes over from Simon Moroney, M.D., who has been leading the company for nearly three decades. He announced his retirement back in February.

“I am delighted to welcome Jean-Paul Kress as the new CEO of MorphoSys," said Marc Cluzel, chairman of the supervisory board of MorphoSys.

“He is a seasoned and highly experienced pharma executive with a strong commercial and operational track record. MorphoSys is at an inflection point of its business evolution, bringing its first product to the market and establishing a commercial presence in the U.S. Jean-Paul's industry expertise will perfectly complement the experienced MorphoSys Management Board to ensure successful execution on the key business priorities while continuing to grow shareholder value.”

He added: “On behalf of the entire Supervisory Board, I want to express our sincere gratitude to Simon Moroney for fulfilling the role as CEO over the past 27 years. His tireless efforts for MorphoSys have contributed substantially to making it the biopharmaceutical success story that it is today.”