Immunocore has named David Berman as its head of research and development. Berman spent the past decade overseeing the rise of immuno-oncology drugs at AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Most recently, Berman worked as head of the immuno-oncology franchise at AstraZeneca, a position he held until shortly before moving to Immunocore in September. Berman joined AstraZeneca from Bristol-Myers—triggering a lawsuit in the process—in 2015 to take up the role of head of oncology at Anglo-Swedish company’s MedImmune subsidiary.
Berman landed the role at AstraZeneca on the back of a 10-year stint at Bristol-Myers. At the immuno-oncology pioneer, Berman played a part in the discovery and development of the CTLA-4 checkpoint inhibitor Yervoy before taking a broader role in exploratory development.
The 13 years Berman spent at AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers cover the period in which the first wave of immuno-oncology agents reshaped cancer care, and the later shift to drug combinations and trials targeting earlier-stage disease.
Having helped Bristol-Myers become a big player in immuno-oncology and influenced AstraZeneca’s catch-up strategy, Berman is well placed to opine on the state of the sector. And the ex-AstraZeneca exec thinks his new employer can help to bring the benefits of immuno-oncology to more patients.
“The majority of IOs in development attempt to bypass peripheral tolerance by "rewiring" existing anti-cancer T cells. They also require that tumors have neo-antigens for these T cells to recognize and target,” Berman wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “However, many patients lack these pre-existing T cells and tumors may have insufficient neo-antigens. New approaches such as bypassing central tolerance (thymic selection) is an exciting new field; in essence, creating 'new T cell hardware.'”
At Immunocore, Berman will work to move lead candidate IMCgp100 toward commercialization and advance earlier-stage assets as part of a new-look management team. Berman will work alongside Immuncore CEO Bahija Jallal, who also recently joined the British biotech from AstraZeneca.
Jallal has made strengthening the leadership team a top priority for 2019 after inheriting a management group that had been weakened by departures during a time of change for the biotech.