ImmusanT goes on hiring spree ahead of phase 2 celiac vaccine trial

ImmusanT is boosting its senior staff, bringing on Daiichi Sankyo’s SVP for internal medicine therapeutics, Ken Truitt, M.D., as its new chief medical officer, while also hiring new VPs in clinical operations and program management, as well as a new finance director, as it looks to advance development of its treatments for celiac disease and Type 1 diabetes.

Truitt previously served as the Japanese pharma's global head of translational medicine and clinical pharmacology, and as VP of clinical development. Before that, he was director of clinical research at Merck’s pulmonary-immunology division.

“Ken brings years of experience developing drug candidates through all stages of development, including preclinical development, and running all phases of clinical trial advancement through to submission of new drug applications,” ImmusanT CEO Leslie Williams said in a statement (PDF).

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based ImmusanT also hired (PDF) Kristin Neff as VP of clinical operations and project management; Joyce Pinkham as VP of program management; and Jonathan Yeadon as finance director.

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Neff joins from InVivo Therapeutics, where she was VP of clinical operations and project management, and helped lead development of a medical device to treat acute spinal cord injury.

Pinkham, former VP of program and alliance management at Juniper Pharmaceuticals, will begin work June 11. She has also held senior program and portfolio management positions at Cubist Pharmaceuticals and Genzyme.

Yeadon, meanwhile, served as director of finance at Wolfe Laboratories and brings over 12 years of experience overseeing finance operations in the life sciences.

The hiring spree comes as the biotech expects to launch a midstage test of its lead celiac vaccine candidate, Nexvax2, in the third quarter, with additional plans to grow its epitope-specific immuno-therapy platform for new treatments against autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 diabetes.

Late last year, ImmusanT brought in $40 million in series C financing to support the trial. Nexvax2 reprograms T cells responsible for the symptoms of celiac disease to stop triggering a pro-inflammatory response following exposure to gluten.