J&J cell therapy head exits to take up post at fledgling biotech

Tamas Oravecz, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Parthenon Therapeutics (Business Wire)

Johnson & Johnson has lost its global head, cell therapy platform and discovery. Tamas Oravecz, Ph.D., took up the post at J&J’s Janssen earlier this year, only to leave to become chief scientific officer  at the newly minted cancer biotech Parthenon Therapeutics.

Oravecz worked on HIV cell and gene therapies early in his career, spending two years at Novartis as it tried to make a success of the assets it acquired in the takeover of SyStemix. Later, Oravecz worked on other modalities, first during a 14-year stint at Lexicon Pharmaceuticals and later in a shorter spell at Celgene.

In 2018, Oravecz joined Janssen from Celgene, initially as senior director and head of exploratory discovery. Oravecz moved roles within Janssen earlier this year, taking on the titles of VP and global head, cell therapy platform and discovery, and has now moved out of the company altogether.

Last month, Oravecz left Janssen to become CSO at Parthenon. The position gives Oravecz a starring role in Parthenon’s attempt to improve the treatment of cancers by creating holes in the barriers that surround many tumors, thereby allowing T cells to penetrate the inner sanctum and wipe out the malignant cells.

RELATED: Pfizer adds to Parthenon's $65M war chest to back battle at the tumor barrier

Parthenon took the lid off its activities one month ago when it simultaneously disclosed a $65 million series A round and a Nature paper describing how neutralizing discoidin domain receptor 1 disrupts the mechanical barrier around tumors. The paper discussed the application of the approach in breast cancer, but Parthenon sees opportunities to tackle a wide range of tumors.

Oravecz will help Parthenon work through the opportunities. In a statement to disclose the appointment, Parthenon CEO Laurent Audoly, Ph.D., highlighted Oravecz’s “deep expertise in tumor biology” and track record of “recognizing and selecting clinically viable therapeutic approaches.”