Eisai unit H3 Biomedicine poaches Kura Oncology founder as CMO

Eisai sudsidiary H3 Biomedicine is working on a number of cancer candidates. (La Jolla Institute)

Antonio Gualberto, M.D., Ph.D., helped found early-stage biotech Kura Oncology and ran its R&D as chief medical officer. Now, he’s moving over to fill the same role at H3 Biomedicine.

The industry veteran, who also served stints at Merck KGaA, Takeda and Pfizer, will helm H3’s newly created position to help push on with its oncology work, overseeing its pipeline and all R&D.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based H3 is a cancer subsidiary of Japanese pharma Eisai and is working on two drugs in phase 1 and one that is now midstage.

The first of the earlier stage meds is H3B-8800, a selective, orally bioavailable small-molecule modulator of wild-type and mutant SF3b complex, with a current focus on blood cancers. The second in phase 1 is liver cancer candidate H3B-6527, an inhibitor of fibroblast growth factor receptor 4.

Its phase 2 drug H3B-6545 is looking at the therapy in certain breast cancer patients and works as a small-molecule modulator of wild-type and mutant estrogen receptor ERα.

The biotech also has a deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb, penned two years back, to use its RNA splicing to see whether it can help boost responses against cancer. Gualberto will now help run all of these programs.

“H3 is at a pivotal stage of growth. The breadth of our precision medicine-driven discovery and clinical R&D requires a CMO with vast scientific knowledge and leadership expertise,” said Lihua Yu, Ph.D., president and chief data science officer at H3.

“Dr. Gualberto possesses more than 20 years of experience in developing clinical assets at multiple biopharma companies. His deep acumen and proven success will be instrumental as we work toward our goal of delivering clinically meaningful outcomes for patients with highly unmet medical needs.”

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“With the umbrella of support of a global pharmaceutical company such as Eisai, H3 is uniquely positioned as a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company. In creating a prolific drug discovery engine and partnership platform, H3 has shown itself to be a leader in the development of new clinical programs,” added Gualberto.

“H3 has a first-rate team that is highly regarded in the oncology community with fantastic discovery and development capabilities, and I look forward to working closely with our entire organization.”