Bischofberger-helmed Kronos nabs Celgene research exec as new CMO

Fierce 15 winner Kronos Bio has poached Jorge DiMartino, M.D., Ph.D., as its chief medical officer and executive vice president of clinical development.

The biotech, run by former Gilead Sciences R&D leader Norbert Bischofberger, is working on hitting tough targets: To date, drug developers have addressed a subsection of proteins with structures that are amenable to drugging with small molecules. A far larger pool of proteins lack obvious pockets for small molecules to bind to.

In comes Kronos, which intends to overcome that structural barrier by performing high-throughput screens against target proteins in conditions designed to be more physiologically relevant. In doing so, Kronos thinks it can identify small molecules capable of interfering with the biology of proteins previously thought to be undruggable.

The screening platform has uncovered candidates involving MYC and cyclin-dependent kinase 9. Those programs are moving through preclinical stages. In parallel, Kronos is working to discover drugs related to other transcription factors, oncoproteins and novel E3 ligases.

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It got off a major $105 million funding round in the summer to help with these efforts, and now it has DiMartino to help run its R&D work.

DiMartino comes off a stint at Celgene, soon to become part of Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he was most recently VP of translational development, protein homeostasis and its Epigenetics Thematic Center of Excellence. He’s also spent time working at Genentech, where he was the development team leader for the BCL2 (venetoclax, navitoclax) collaboration with AbbVie.

“I look forward to leveraging my oncology drug development expertise, which spans drug discovery to Phase 3 trial design, to help Kronos build its clinical organization and progress its two lead preclinical programs toward Investigational New Drug applications,” said DiMartino.

“Kronos’ mission to discover and develop novel therapies against historically undruggable cancer targets dovetails perfectly with my passion for understanding cancer biology and translating this knowledge into clinical development strategies to benefit cancer patients.”

This comes after a mini hiring spree for the biotech: Christopher Lee, Ph.D., comes on board as VP of program management, while Charles Lin, Ph.D., will serve as its VP of biology.

Bischofberger hired Lee from his old Big Biotech Gilead, where he had been for a mammoth 19 years. Most recently, he served as senior director for research portfolio management, where he helped support teams working across early- and late-stage clinical testing.

Lin, meanwhile, comes out of a stint at Baylor College of Medicine, where he served as an assistant professor in the department of molecular and human genetics.