Ex-Pfizer I-O lead joins Sangamo as EVP of R&D

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Woolfson, who started at Sangamo this week, will report to CEO Sandy Macrae. (Pixabay/rawpixel)

Sangamo Therapeutics has named Adrian Woolfson, Ph.D., as its EVP of R&D. The hire gives Sangamo an R&D chief with deep immuno-oncology experience as it works to advance its pipeline.

To date, California-based Sangamo has mainly applied its genomic technologies to the treatment of inherited metabolic diseases and hematological conditions such as hemophilia, with its work on cancer limited to a potentially lucrative cell therapy hookup with Gilead’s Kite Pharma. 

Woolfson, in contrast, has spent more than a decade working on early and late-stage oncology drug development at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer and most recently NousCom. Over that time, Woolfson has become increasingly focused on immuno-oncology, leading to him taking up the CMO position at neoantigen cancer vaccine biotech Nouscom at the start of last year.

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The Nouscom appointment followed a four-year stint as global clinical leader of early and late stage immuno-oncology and hematology at Pfizer. Woolfson’s spell at Pfizer covered a period in which the Big Pharma tried to make up lost ground in immuno-oncology by working with Merck KGaA to build a pipeline around PD-L1 inhibitor Bavencio.

At Sangamo, Woolfson inherits a pipeline that in many regards is quite different from those he worked on in his previous gigs. Sangamo’s in-house clinical-phase assets include genome-editing therapies designed to treat hemophilia B and the inherited metabolic diseases MPS I and II. Other candidates in Sangamo’s in-house and partnered pipeline include a cell therapy treatment for beta-thalassemia and a gene therapy designed to correct Fabry disease.

Woolfson is well versed in genomics, though, and published two books on the topic before joining Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2007. With the EVP also having a background in immunology and experience of taking drugs into and through clinical development, Sangamo CEO Sandy Macrae, Ph.D., sees the resume as a good fit for his company’s needs.

"Adrian's extensive experience in research, translational medicine and drug development will be instrumental in guiding our therapeutic development strategy and leading Sangamo's growth into a late-stage development company,” Macrae said in a statement. 

Woolfson, who started at Sangamo this week, will report to Macrae. 

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