Britain-based biotech Enterprise Therapeutics has hired Novartis Venture Fund managing director David Morris, M.D., as its next chief medical officer.
Morris, who will continue to serve as the fund’s operating partner, will lead Enterprise’s development strategy and drive its two lead respiratory programs through the clinic.
These are ETD002, a first-in-class TMEM16A potentiator, and ETD001, an ENaC blocker, both of which are hoping to help cystic fibrosis (CF) patients.
CF is becoming a big and competitive field, with Vertex recently leading the way with its cocktail therapies. Enterprise says it is focused on creating “disease-modifying therapies which target the underlying mechanisms of mucus congestion, to enhance the clearance of mucus from the airways, restore lung function, and ultimately to reduce morbidity and mortality in chronic respiratory diseases,” which include CF.
There’s a deeper connection here, too, as the Novartis Venture Fund helped power Enterprise’s £29 million ($41 million) series B back in 2018.
Before moving into the VC world of Novartis, Morris held various leadership roles in its pharma unit, including development franchise head of respiratory, development franchise head of primary care and global head of clinical operations, analytics and regions. He’s also served a stint in director-level roles in respiratory discovery research and translational medicine at Roche.
John Ford, Ph.D., CEO of Enterprise Therapeutics, said: “The knowledge and experience David has gained through his successful career in biopharmaceutical discovery and development, as well as his stellar sector expertise in respiratory biology, will be an invaluable asset as we work to define our strategy to progress our respiratory programmes which will initially focus on CF.”
Morris added: “Enterprise’s programmes show great potential to deliver disease-modifying, clinically effective candidates for a significant number of patients with respiratory diseases, including all CF patients regardless of underlying mutations. I am excited to become more closely involved with the team moving forward, at this exciting point in the Company’s development.”
Speaking to FierceBiotech after its series B in 2018 (which was a big haul for any U.K. biotech), Ford said he attributes interest in the company to its different approach to CF, which stands to help all patients—not genetic subsets of the population—by addressing the hydration and clearance of mucus.
“We're not taking the CFTR repair approach. We've gone for other targets. They're what we call mutant-agnostic,” Ford he said at the time. “That means we could treat all CF patients and then potentially look at other respiratory diseases where mucus obstruction is an issue.” It has big companies to battle for market share should it gain approval in the future, but clearly Morris and Novartis' VC unit see potential.