Disarm Therapeutics has a full-time CEO—the neuro-focused biotech has signed on Alvin Shih, M.D., the former Retrophin R&D chief who went on to helm Enzyvant until February this year.
Shih joins Disarm as it moves its stable of SARM1 inhibitors through preclinical development. The company uncloaked in September 2017 with $30 million in series A cash to work on treatments targeting axonal degeneration in neurological diseases.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech’s mission is to “disarm” the SARM1 protein, which plays a key role in the degeneration of axons, the nerve fibers that carry signals between neurons. It has licensed exclusive rights to key SARM1 discoveries from Washington University in St. Louis.
“Scientists and physicians have long sought to identify the underlying trigger or mechanism driving axonal degeneration because of its early and ongoing role in disability and disease progression. (Jeffrey Milbrandt and Aaron DiAntonio of Washington University) recently identified that SARM1 possesses intrinsic enzymatic activity that is itself the central driver of axonal degeneration, providing an important new target,” said Disarm co-founder and Atlas Venture partner Jason Rhodes at launch. He's been keeping the seat warm as acting CEO until now.
The company is betting that targeting axonal degeneration could slow or even stop the progression of diseases of the central, ocular and peripheral nervous systems, including multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
“Disarm has created a powerful product engine and is advancing a new class of disease-modifying therapeutics for patients with diseases of the central, peripheral, and ocular nervous systems,” Rhodes said in a statement. “We are excited to welcome Alvin to Disarm. He brings exceptional leadership skills and biopharma experience to the company as we prepare for the next phase of growth and product development.”
Shih started his career as a physician before moving to consulting and, ultimately, to biopharma. He was a founding member and chief operating officer of Pfizer’s rare disease research unit before he headed to Retrophin, where he oversaw the development of programs aimed at neurological and renal diseases. Shih moved on to Enzyvant in late 2016 and drove the FDA filing for RVT-802, a tissue-based therapy for primary immunodeficiency associated with congenital athymia.