CAR-T player Cell Medica names Kite’s European chief as CEO

Chris Nowers (Kite Pharma)

Cell Medica has appointed Chris Nowers as its CEO. Nowers joins the company from Gilead’s Kite Pharma at a time when Cell Medica is seeking to push CAR and TCR candidates through clinical development and on to the market.

London-based Cell Medica has built out its cell therapy platform in recent years by raising more than £100 million ($131 million), acquiring assets and technologies and teaming up with Houston's Baylor College of Medicine. These activities have given Cell Medica a handful of natural killer T cell CARs and TCR assets that are nearing the clinic.

Having put that foundation in place, Cell Medica’s founder, CEO Gregg Sando, is stepping down and handing over the reins to Nowers. The CEO switch gives Cell Medica a leader who is as well-versed as anyone in the emerging skill of building out cell therapy infrastructure in Europe.

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Nowers joined Kite from Bristol-Myers Squibb in October 2016 with a brief to establish a commercial operation capable of handling the anticipated approval of CAR-T therapy Yescarta. After 22 months as Kite’s European leader, Nowers leaves the company as it closes in on the European approval of the CAR-T.

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Cell Medica is still some way from filing for approval of its cell therapy candidates—none of its active programs have progressed past phase 2—but it already has an eye on what it will take to turn the drugs into commercial successes.

“[Nowers’] experience in the commercialization of oncology programs is an excellent fit for the company’s ambitions as we progress towards realizing our goals of delivering compelling new cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer patients,” Cell Medica chair Annalisa Jenkins said in a statement.

Earlier in his career, Nowers built and led teams that handled the European commercialization of Bristol-Myers’ checkpoint inhibitors Opdivo and Yervoy.