Jnana President Joanne Kotz to take on CEO role

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Kotz helped form the 2018 Fierce 15 winner's early scientific strategy, while leading its business operations since January 2017. (Getty/Chris Ryan)

Fierce 15 winner Jnana Therapeutics has installed co-founder Joanne Kotz, Ph.D., as its new CEO. She has served as president since December of last year.

Jnana is targeting the more than 400 cell membrane proteins known as solute carriers, which transport a wide range of molecules, ions and metabolites, in applications against inflammatory bowel disease and monogenic diseases. The underexplored group of druggable targets has seen fewer than 20 approved drugs so far.

Kotz helped formulate the Boston-based company’s initial scientific strategy, and has helped lead its business operations since its launch in January 2017.

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“Joanne has demonstrated exceptional leadership in guiding the company through its early stages of growth, and we believe she is the ideal person to bring Jnana through its next phase and execute on the company’s vision to unlock SLC transporters as a therapeutic class,” said Amir Nashat, Jnana’s previous interim CEO and a managing partner at Polaris Partners.

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“She has built a talented team and a collaborative, empowering culture, while also leading important work to validate Jnana’s proprietary drug discovery platform,” Nashat said in a statement.

Prior to co-founding Jnana with its chief scientific officer, Joel Barrish, Ph.D.—alongside academic founders Stuart Schreiber, Ph.D., and Ramnik Xavier, Ph.D., two core members of the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard—Kotz was an assistant director of F-Prime Capital Partners’ biomedical research initiative that focused on early-stage neurodegenerative development.

Before that, she served as director of the Broad Institute’s Center for the Science of Therapeutics, where she helped guide drug discovery efforts including collaborations with Bayer in oncology.

RELATED: Neurocrine, Jnana team up to discover CNS drugs

In December 2017, Jnana raised $50 million from Polaris Partners, Avalon Ventures, Versant Ventures, AbbVie Ventures and Pfizer R&D Innovate.

And this October, the startup teamed up with Neurocrine Biosciences to explore the use of solute carrier metabolite transporters in central nervous system disorders. Neurocrine made an undisclosed upfront payment and committed to future funding of joint work identifying novel small molecules using Jnana’s drug discovery platform.

Currently, Jnana has about 18 full-time staffers, with plans to grow steadily to about 25 employees before the end of the year.