Forma’s John Hohneker takes the reins at Anokion

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John Hohneker joins Anokion about a year after Celgene inked a possible takeover deal with the biotech. (Pixabay)

After shepherding Forma Therapeutics from its discovery stage to clinical trials as its R&D chief, John Hohneker is joining Anokion Therapeutics as president and CEO, effective Jan. 22.

“John brings tremendous experience in biologics development to Anokion, including in the immunology space. His broad leadership in both preclinical and clinical development will strengthen Anokion’s powerful platforms in immunological tolerance,” said Jeffrey Hubbell, the academic founder, chairman and chief scientific officer of Anokion, in a statement.

Anokion, a spinout of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, is working on an antigen-specific immune tolerance platform for the development of new treatments for autoimmune disease.

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The tech is designed for “diverse applications,” the company says, including tolerizing the immune system to self-antigens behind autoimmune diseases, as well as cutting the immunogenicity of therapeutic proteins.

The biotech is advancing two approaches to exploit the body’s natural tolerance mechanism of apoptotic, or aging, cells. Both involve engineering antigens to provoke a tolerogenic immune response—in the first, the antigens bind to a surface protein unique to red blood cells, while in the second, they bind to liver cells.

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In addition to his R&D experience at Forma, Hohneker served in a number of roles at Novartis, most recently as senior vice president and global head of development for immunology and dermatology.

In January last year, Celgene plunked down $45 million up front to join forces with Anokion on tolerance-inducing treatments. Anokion stands to collect another $10 million if it hits certain preclinical performance marks, while Celgene picked up an equity interest in Anokion and the exclusive right to acquire the biotech at a later date.