After FDA setback, Bellicum bolsters R&D team with ex-Genentech executive

Just a few days after the FDA placed a clinical hold on its lead cell therapy for cancer, Bellicum Pharma has added new R&D leadership by appointing ex-Genentech executive William Grossman, M.D., Ph.D., as its chief medical officer.

Grossman officially joins the Houston-based biotech Monday after two-and-a-half years at Genentech/Roche, where he most recently served as medical director of its cancer immunotherapy program. That involved leading the development of PD-L1 inhibitor Tecentriq in gastrointestinal cancers, as well as cancer immunotherapy combinations across all solid tumor types.

Prior to that, he held senior positions at AbbVie, Biothera, Baxter and Merck & Co—focusing primarily on cancer programs.

Grossman joins Bellicum with the immediate task of handling the FDA clinical hold on BPX-501, which was implemented last week after three cases of encephalopathy were seen in patients treated with the adjunct T-cell therapy.

CEO Rick Fair seems confident that the program remains viable, saying today that Grossman’s appointment will “strengthen our team as we advance and expand our …pipeline and prepare for the regulatory filing and potential commercialization of BPX-501 in Europe.”

The company has previously indicated that it is hoping to have top-line data from European registration studies in the second half of this year with a filing in 2019. Analysts at Jefferies have suggested Bellicum should be able to resolve the hold within three months.

BPX-501 is in development for patients who undergo partial-match hematopoietic stem cell transplants to treat hematological cancers and inherited blood disorders, and is designed to fight infection, aid engraftment and stop disease relapse, as well as kill the rogue cells that trigger graft versus host disease.”

“Cellular immunotherapies are transforming how we treat cancer,” said Grossman of his new job. “Bellicum’s novel platform for controlling the activity of immune cells may help us improve upon the current generation, extending the benefit of these life-saving immunotherapies to more types of cancer.”

The company’s pipeline also includes BPX-601, a CAR-T therapy in the clinic for pancreatic cancer, a T cell receptor therapy BPX-701 in testing for refractory or relapsed acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes.