Intellia signs on Novartis vet Lebwohl as CMO

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A physician by training, David Lebwohl, M.D., started his biopharma career at Bristol Myers Squibb, where he worked in oncology, before moving on to Novartis. (Intellia Therapeutics)

After a long career at Novartis, David Lebwohl, M.D., landed at Semma Therapeutics as its chief medical officer. But his time at the stem cell biotech was cut short when Vertex snapped it up for $950 million. Now, he’s taking on another CMO role at CRISPR player Intellia Therapeutics.

A physician by training, Lebwohl started his biopharma career at Bristol Myers Squibb, where he worked in oncology, before moving on to Novartis, where he wore several hats, including senior vice president and head of the company’s global CAR-T program. At Novartis, he has led development for various oncology programs, including CAR-T therapy Kymriah and chemotherapy medicine Afinitor.

“Dr. Lebwohl joins Intellia during an exciting time for the company, as we continue to rapidly progess our first systemic CRISPR/Cas9-based therapy to the clinic. David’s vast experience in rare diseases, engineered cell therapy and clinical development complement our R&D capabilities and leadership team strength,” said Intellia CEO John Leonard, M.D., in a statement Thursday. Leonard himself held the CMO post before becoming Intellia’s R&D chief and then CEO.

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“Under his leadership, we look forward to the impact he can make in delivering Intellia’s CRISPR/Cas9-based treatments to patients,” Leonard added.

Lebwohl isn’t Intellia’s only Novartis connection. In 2015, just three months after launching, the company inked a five-year R&D pact with the Swiss pharma focused on CRISPR/Cas9-engineered CAR-T and stem cell-based therapies. The pair expanded the deal in 2018. In March, the FDA gave Novartis the go-ahead to start a phase 1/2 study of a CRISPR/Cas9-based engineered cell therapy for sickle cell disease that came out of that partnership.

For its part, Intellia is on track to submit an IND for NTLA-2001, its Regeneron-partnered treatment for transthyretin amyloidosis, in mid-2020. It plans to follow that with an IND application for a TCR-T cell therapy for acute myeloid leukemia.

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