E-Scape Bio has signed on a new chief scientist as it pushes its lead program through phase 1. Paul Wren, Ph.D., joins the Bay Area biotech from GlaxoSmithKline, where he had multiple jobs in its neuroscience unit.
Wren most recently focused on neuroscience discovery as a senior director at the British drugmaker and has worked in neuroscience clinical development and neurodegenerative diseases. Before GSK, he worked at Pfizer, Organon (now part of Merck via Schering-Plough) and Sandoz across multiple central nervous system (CNS) areas, including neurodegeneration, mood disorders and pain.
He arrives at E-Scape Bio months after the company revealed phase 1 data for its lead program in Niemann-Pick disease type C, a rare, inherited disorder in which patients cannot transport cholesterol and other fats inside cells. This leads to a buildup of these fats in various tissues, including in brain tissue, where it causes neurodegeneration.
E-Scape Bio’s treatment, ESB1609, is a daily pill designed to activate sphingosine 1-phosphate 5 (S1P5) receptors, which regulate lipid (fat) transporters in the CNS. The drug has reduced markers of neurodegeneration in animal models of Niemann-Pick C and was deemed safe in a phase 1 study testing it in healthy people. The company is now testing multiple ascending doses of the drug in people with Niemann-Pick C as well as in healthy people.
“Great science is the backbone of ESCAPE and what supports us in our efforts to make transformational medicines for patients suffering from genetically-defined neurodegenerative disorders. With more than three decades of broad drug discovery experience across multiple world class organizations, Paul is the ideal scientific leader to join ESCAPE, and I have tremendous confidence in his ability to support and guide the research organization,” said E-Scape Bio CEO Julie Smith in a statement.
E-Scape is also developing ESB1609 for patients with Parkinson’s disease that is linked to a GBA mutation. Its earlier-stage programs target genetically defined patient groups with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
“With a shared passion and vision, I look forward to working with my new colleagues to convert human genetics into medicines,” Wren said in the statement. “Making a meaningful difference to patients suffering from debilitating neurodegenerative diseases through robust innovative science is an exciting incentive to accelerate and expand the ESCAPE Bio portfolio.”