Another Takeda/Shire R&D exec jumps ship as Pharvaris nabs Peng Lu as its new CMO

After getting off a $66 million series B round in September last year, hereditary angioedema (HAE) specialist Pharvaris has taken on a seasoned HAE developer to help lead its pipeline.

The startup has nabbed former Takeda/Shire exec Peng Lu, M.D., Ph.D., as its chief medical officer; Lu comes from Shire after it has been subsumed into Japanese Big Pharma Takeda and follows a whole host of other execs who have hit the exit amid the merger.

At Shire, she led the team that finished up the phase 3 pivotal HAE studies that led to the approval of Takhzyro (lanadelumab‐flyo) for the prevention of HAE attacks, which can cause life-threatening swelling of the airways or intestinal tract.

This dovetails well with her new role at the Leiden, Netherlands-based biotech, which is working on an oral B2-receptor antagonist for HAE, with its tech also being earmarked for other disease areas.  

As CMO, she will oversee global clinical development and regulatory strategies for Pharvaris, which is looking to do things differently in the space: Current treatments for HAE are given by injection or intravenous infusion.

Pharvaris is looking to change that—the Dutch company’s focus on an oral drug for the rare disease sees it attack the problem differently. Its drug, PHA121, blocks signaling at the B2 receptor to inhibit bradykinin, an inflammatory protein. Pharvaris has started a phase 1 study in healthy volunteers and has an ascending-dose study plotted for this year.

But the European biotech isn’t the only company working on an oral HAE drug. In January last year, Attune Pharmaceuticals raised $23 million to bankroll a phase 2 study for its candidate, which targets the enzyme kallikrein. North Carolina-based BioCryst Pharma is aiming at the same target.

“Peng’s strong industry and operational leadership positions Pharvaris for success as we move quickly to develop PHA121 for patients with HAE,” said Berndt Modig, CEO and co-founder of Pharvaris.

“Peng has deep experience in HAE drug development from both the clinical and regulatory perspective, which will prove valuable in our clinical development and registration strategies. Her ability to build and manage successful teams fits our vision for the company's growth in the coming years. Peng will be based in Boston to expand the clinical development and operation teams in the U.S. in addition to our growing team in Europe.”

Lu added: “Pharvaris has an exciting portfolio and impressive executive team; it will be my privilege to lead the development activities for our lead product candidate, PHA121, to address patients' strong desire for oral therapies that can treat and prevent HAE attacks. Pharvaris' portfolio of B2-receptor antagonists provides an exciting platform to address bradykinin-mediated disease broadly. I look forward to growing and evolving Pharvaris with my new colleagues.”

Lu has also spent stints at AbbVie and Roche/Genentech, where she was responsible for the design and implementation of early and late development clinical strategies across a range of indications including autoimmune, respiratory and genetic diseases.