Agios recruits Genentech cancer star as new CEO

One of Genentech's star cancer drug development specialists is moving into the top job at Cambridge, MA-based Agios Pharmaceuticals, a start-up developer that scored a $33 million Series A last summer.

David Schenkein (photo), the former senior vice president in charge of cancer drug development at Genentech, has been tapped to replace Kevin Starr as CEO. Starr, a partner at Third Rock Ventures, had been interim CEO during the ramping up phase. Agios also announced that Duncan Higgons (photo) will join the company as chief operating officer.

Schenkein's work at Genentech included supervising several cancer therapies in all stages of development--including the submission and approval of NDAs, sBLAs and INDs. At Genentech, Schenkein has worked with a staff of 130. At Agios, he'll be in charge of a team of about 40. Its lead program is scheduled to begin clinical trials within the next 12 months.

Schenkein, 52, agreed to stay on at Genentech through July to help complete the Roche acquisition. After that, he'll devote himself to Agios. "I've had a desire to run a small company for some time, and this seemed like the right opportunity," Schenkein tells FierceBiotech. He adds that his entire post-academic career has been devoted to novel therapies that can make a big difference. Agios has the potential to continue to advance that record.

"The basic principle is to go after the fuel supply of cancer cells," says Schenkein about Agios' approach. By targeting the different enzymes cancer cells rely on to devour nutrients, the company can generate a variety of new drug programs that can target different types of cancers and help further personalize a new generation of therapeutics.

- check out the Agios release

ALSO: Two of Agios' scientific founders won major grants from Stand Up to Cancer today, including the University of Pennsylvania's Craig Thompson. Report

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