Autolus CMO Peddareddigari departs to return to the U.S.

People shaking hands across a desk that has computer and papers on it
Autolus also appointed ex-Celgene CMO Jay Backstrom to its board of directors. (rawpixel/Pixabay)

Autolus chief medical officer Vijay Peddareddigari is leaving the company to return to the U.S. The British CAR-T biotech disclosed the departure alongside news that Nushmia Khokhar, who crossed paths with Peddareddigari at Johnson & Johnson, has stepped up to a clinical SVP position.

Peddareddigari joined Autolus as CMO in 2016. The timing of Peddareddigari’s arrival meant his spell at Autolus covered the period in which the biotech built out its clinical-phase pipeline, which now features four CAR-T cell therapies against targets including CD19, CD19xCD22, TRBC1 and GD2. The cell therapies feature technologies designed to provide more control over safety and efficacy.

In a statement, CEO Christian Itin said Peddareddigari “played a key leadership role in establishing and executing the clinical development strategy” for Autolus’ cell therapies.

Having guided Autolus through its early moves into the clinic, Peddareddigari is now leaving the company and returning to the U.S. Peddareddigari worked at MD Anderson Cancer Center before taking up posts at sites run by GlaxoSmithKline and J&J in the Philadelphia area.

The departure of Peddareddigari comes at the same time as the promotion of Khokhar to head of clinical development. Khokhar, like Peddareddigari, joined Autolus from J&J, where she was global clinical leader for daratumumab, the anti-CD38 blockbuster sold as Darzalex. Itin said Khokhar “has been instrumental in overseeing the development of our clinical programs” since joining in 2017.

Autolus disclosed the changes to its clinical development team in a statement that also revealed the appointment of Jay Backstrom to its board of directors. Backstrom has headed up R&D at Acceleron Pharma since late last year. Prior to that, Backstrom spent around a decade at Celgene, where he rose to the rank of CMO.