Biogen's early R&D chief Ghosh leaves to take Unity CEO post

Unity CEO Anirvan Ghosh (Anirvan0419/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Biogen’s head of early R&D Anirvan Ghosh has left the company to take up the CEO position at Unity Biotechnology. The neuroscientist joins the longevity biotech after three years leading a 350-person team at Biogen.

During his stint at Biogen, Ghosh oversaw the advance of 10 preclinical programs into the clinic and the execution of studies as advanced as phase 2 clinical proof-of-concept trials. Ghosh leaves Biogen with nine programs in phase 1, up from five as of the middle of 2018. Unity noted the expansion of Biogen’s clinical pipeline under Ghosh in a statement to disclose his appointment.

At Unity, Ghosh will inherit a far smaller pipeline. Unity has one asset in the clinic, osteoarthritis prospect UBX0101, and a clutch of programs in lead optimization and IND-enabling studies.

Keith Leonard, who led Kythera Biopharmaceuticals to its 2015 takeover by Allergan, oversaw the progress of UBX0101—an inhibitor of the MDM2/p53 protein-protein interaction—and Unity’s other candidates as CEO of the longevity biotech. However, Leonard is now “leaving his operating role due to personal circumstances,” according to Unity. Leonard will continue as chair of the board. 

Leonard leaves behind pipeline prospects that have begun to validate Unity’s interest in targeting cellular senescence to treat age-related diseases. Last year, Unity posted phase 1 data linking UBX0101 to improved scores on pain symptom questionnaires in patients with moderate to severe osteoarthritis.

While the drug failed to statistically outperform placebo in the second part of the study, Unity saw enough promise in the data to move UBX0101 into phase 2. Unity recently completed enrollment in the 183-subject trial, setting it up to post top-line data in the second half of the year. A phase 1b trial of a higher dose of UBX0101 is also underway, and a phase 1 ophthalmology study is due to start in the back half of the year. 

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