Ex-Bioverativ CEO John Cox lands at T-cell biotech Torque Therapeutics

John Cox signed on as Torque's executive chairman in January this year before taking the company's reins as CEO in October. (Pixabay)

John Cox, who shepherded Bioverativ through its $11.6 billion acquisition by Sanofi, has a new gig. He’s hopped from one CEO chair to another—now, he’s helming Torque Therapeutics, a biotech working on T-cell therapies for blood cancers and solid tumors.

Torque is working on what it calls deep-primed adoptive cell transfer treatments, which it believes can surmount the hurdles that limit the use of cell therapy in cancer. These include getting past the microenvironment around a tumor that quashes the immune system and shuts down T-cell function.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company “deep-primes” T cells to target multiple tumor antigens and puts cytokine and immunomodulators on their surface to call forth an immune response in the tumor microenvironment, the company says. Its first program, TRQ-1501, primes T cells to carry IL-15, a cytokine that promotes the proliferation of natural killer cells. Torque is testing it in a phase 1/2 study in relapsed or refractory solid tumors and lymphomas. The company plans to push two more programs into the clinic “in the next two quarters,” Cox said in a statement.

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“I am delighted to take leadership of Torque Therapeutics,” Cox said. “After the sale of Bioverativ, I assessed many opportunities to run a company that could really change patients’ lives. I believe Torque represents one of the most compelling approaches to do that.”

Cox wore various hats at Biogen, eventually becoming the executive vice president of pharmaceutical operations, technical development, quality and engineering, and the development and commercialization of the company’s biosimilars. He led Bioverativ’s spinout from Biogen in 2016, as well as its Sanofi buyout in 2018.

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Before taking the reins at Torque, Cox signed on as the company’s executive chairman in January this year. Since then, Torque has pushed TRQ-1501 into clinical development, advanced several pipeline candidates, built its team and inked a couple of deals. One is a manufacturing agreement with Thermo Fisher and the other is a clinical trial collaboration with Merck to test TRQ-1501 with Keytruda.

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“Torque is poised to move the field of Adoptive Cell Transfer from niche use in small groups of late-stage patients with particular hematologic malignancies to broad use across multiple groups of early- and late-stage patients with a broad range of range of hematologic and solid malignancies,” Cox said. “Torque’s Deep Primed product-platform is the only approach that has been developed that combines the ability to address the inherent variability of each patient’s malignancy, safely harness the critical power of cytokines and other immune agonists, and cost-effectively manufacture therapeutic products.”