IGM poaches Gilead cancer chief Takimoto at pivotal moment for both companies

IGM Biosciences has lured away Gilead’s oncology chief Chris Takimoto, M.D., Ph.D., to become chief medical officer, where he will oversee a pipeline of early-stage cancer assets.

Takimoto will join the biotech after coming under Gilead's wing in 2020 through the $4.9 billion acquisition of Forty Seven, where he served as CMO. His most recent role at Gilead was senior vice president, oncology.

At IGM, Takimoto will take over global development for the biotech’s clinical pipeline of proprietary IgM antibodies, which kill cancer cells in several different ways, including using T cells, inducing programmable cell death or delivering cytokines. IGM believes its line of antibodies could improve on the efficacy and safety of existing therapies.

“Dr. Takimoto has a proven track record of shepherding novel oncology product candidates through clinical development together with broad expertise in oncology and pharmacology gained through a distinguished industry, academic, and public service career,” said IGM CEO Fred Schwarzer in a statement.

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Outgoing CMO Daniel Chen, M.D., Ph.D., will remain involved in a "consulting capacity," but it's not clear why he is leaving. Chen managed initial dose escalation for a phase 1 clinical trial for the non-Hodgkin lymphoma therapy IGM-2323 and launched a phase 1 trial for IGM-8444 in solid and liquid tumors.

“IGM Biosciences has solved many of the challenges historically associated with engineering and manufacturing these complex molecules, and I look forward to participating in their clinical development and helping to demonstrate their full potential,” Takimoto said in the statement.

Takimoto’s move will be a loss for Gilead, which has been gearing up R&D in cancer. The Forty Seven deal closed just over a year ago in April 2020, so Takimoto seems to have been ready to leave his old company in the hands of the new parent.

IGM, too, is at a pivotal point, after launching into the public markets in 2019 with an oversubscribed IPO worth $175 million. Now, the company, valued at $492 million at the time of the IPO, will have to put up some data, with Takimoto at the helm.

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Takimoto knows a thing or two about how to up the interest following an IPO. When Forty Seven went public in a $115 million IPO in 2018, he unveiled first-in-human data on the immuno-oncology company’s monoclonal antibody in non-Hodgkin lymphoma just 48 hours later.

He’ll continue in that disease area at IMG with IGM-2323.