Gilead cancer research director heads to Compugen

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At Gilead, Henry Adewoye worked on Zydelig, which was approved in 2014, but faced problems that halted six trials using the drug in combination with a variety of others as a first-line therapy. (Pexels)

In Gilead’s latest round of musical chairs, its clinical director of cancer research, Henry Adewoye, M.D., has jumped ship to Compugen, where he will serve as chief medical officer.

The move comes as Gilead is shifting focus to CAR-T—the Big Pharma is looking to make up for its flagging hepatitis C franchise, which is taking a hit from increased competition. To plug the gap, Gilead brought out even more hep C combos, bolstered its HIV unit and pushed forward on its fatty liver and cancer work. But oncology has been a sticking point for the company.

Adewoye worked on several cancer programs at Gilead, including the phase 1 to 3 programs for Zydelig, its P13K inhibitor approved for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, small lymphocytic lymphoma and follicular lymphomas. The med scored FDA approval back in 2014, but serious side effects, including death, halted six trials using the drug in combination with a variety of others as a first-line therapy.

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Last August, Gilead bet $11.9 billion on Kite Pharma and its CAR-T treatment, Yescarta. Two months later, the therapy bagged an FDA nod for relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma, with a price tag of $373,000. At the time, Gilead promoted Alessandro Riva—poached in 2017 from Novartis to lead hematology and oncology therapeutics—to head up all of its cancer programs as executive vice president of oncology therapeutics.

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More executive shuffling followed Riva’s move: in January, Esteban (Steve) Abella, M.D., who oversaw Gilead’s blood cancer R&D, departed for BioClin Therapeutics and in April, Gilead’s long-serving Norbert Bischofberger, will step down from his post of EVP of R&D and chief scientific officer.

At Compugen, Adewoye will lead the transition from the preclinical to the clinical stage and will oversee the company’s clinical programs. Compugen has several candidates in its pipeline, including treatments for immuno-oncology and autoimmune indications.

"I am excited to join Compugen […] as we initiate first-in-human trials for COM701, a therapeutic antibody targeting the novel immune checkpoint PVRIG, later in 2018 and for COM902, a therapeutic antibody targeting TIGIT, in 2019,” Adeyowe said. “Compugen's computational discovery capabilities uniquely position the company within this competitive industry, with the ability to discover new drug targets and develop first-in-class cancer immunotherapy drugs to potentially broaden the treatment options available to physicians and cancer patients today."