Fragile X biotech Vencerx hires ex-Pfizer, Wyeth exec Robert Ring as CEO

Robert Ring was most recently CSO of the nonprofit science foundation Autism Speaks

New York biotech Vencerx Therapeutic has taken on biopharma vet and neuroscientist Robert Ring, Ph.D., as its new CEO, as it looks to unveil its early pipeline later this year.

The little-known biotech, whose name means to defeat or vanquish, is focused on rare neurodevelopmental disorders such as Fragile X Syndrome and other related conditions. Ring will bring with him experience from Pfizer, Wyeth and Autism Speaks in CNS drug discovery and development, translational research and patient advocacy, which includes Fragile X syndrome work.

David Malpass, a founder of Vencerx, said: “Rob is a recognized leader in the field of autism research and brings years of experience working at the forefront of therapeutics development for related neurodevelopmental disorders such as Fragile X. We are pleased to have someone with Rob’s experience spearheading our efforts to advance treatments for Fragile X Syndrome and related conditions.”

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The biotech was founded back in 2015, although little info has come out since its creation. The company is working on early-stage work on Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), a genetic disorder caused by a mutation in the DNA structure within the X chromosome, and is the most common cause of autism.

It can cause a wide-range of developmental, physical and behavioral issues and is the most common known cause of inherited developmental disability. There are currently no treatments for the condition, although research has been ongoing for about two decades.

This research has however hit setbacks over the years, including in 2014 when Roche said its mid-stage studies for RG7090, a mGluR5 therapy, failed to hit the primary and secondary goals in Fragile X, prompting the pharma giant to shut down the program. This followed similar flops from Seaside and Novartis, and more recently from Alcobra, whose drug missed the mark in Fragile X trial after flunking in ADHD in 2015.

Vencerx is clearly hoping to have better luck; it was short on deal specifics, but said it has: “Potential partnerships that will quickly establish its initial pipeline around two exciting therapeutic opportunities, both for neurodevelopmental indications like Fragile X.”

The company said it would be sharing more about these lead assets “in the coming months.”

“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the team at Vencerx at a moment in time when the field of therapeutics development for rare neurodevelopmental disorders like Fragile X is poised to take off,” said Ring.

“The past decade of CNS drug development field has quietly ignored what I see as a massive opportunity to address the diverse unmet needs of families across the autism and neurodevelopmental disorder communities by leveraging the rich diversity of targets and clinical assets pursued, and in many cases abandoned, for other indications.”

Ring most recently served as CSO of the global nonprofit science foundation Autism Speaks, where his tenure was highlighted by the launch of MSSNG, a genomics partnership with Google (now Verily) and the Hospital for Sick Children that has established a database of genomic sequence information from 10,000 individuals with autism and their families.

He was also instrumental in starting up DELSIA LLC, the foundation’s innovative venture arm.

Ring has in addition headed the Autism Unit at Pfizer global research and development, which focused on the discovery and development of medicines for autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Fragile X.

He came to Pfizer from Wyeth Research in Princeton, heading Mood Disorders Research and serving as program leader for numerous drug development programs, including efforts developing agonists for the oxytocin receptor and negative allosteric modulators of mGluR5.

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