Legend Biotech CSO abruptly leaves Johnson & Johnson's CAR-T partner he co-founded

The co-founder of Legend Biotech—Johnson & Johnson’s partner for the freshly FDA-approved CAR-T therapy Carvykti—has stepped down unexpectedly as its chief scientific officer.

Frank Fan, M.D., Ph.D., resigned from the company this week, the CAR-T developer said in a Friday announcement. In his place, Legend has named Zymeworks exec Guowei Fang, Ph.D., as senior vice president and global head of research and early development. 

Frank Fan, M.D., Ph.D. (Legend Biotech)

In a revelation that suggests Fan was likely forced out amid an internal power struggle, the former science chief told Fierce Biotech he hasn’t settled on his next gig. 

“It’s been a difficult decision for me, and you may imagine without reasons, no company founder is truly willing to leave his company at this highlight moment,” Fan said in an email to Fierce Biotech.


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Fan’s departure comes merely a month after Legend got its first commercial go-ahead in Carvykti, a BCMA-targeted CAR-T therapy, for heavily pretreated multiple myeloma.

Fan co-founded Legend in 2015 together with Fangliang “Frank” Zhang, Ph.D., who also co-founded Legend’s parent company, the CDMO Genscript Biotech. Zhang stepped down from his posts at Legend and Genscript in late 2020 after being put under residential surveillance and later arrested for “the suspected offense of smuggling goods prohibited by the import and export regulations” in China. No formal charges against Zhang have emerged since then. 

Legend’s current CEO, Ying Huang, Ph.D., stepped up from his CFO post and became the new CEO in 2020.

“Dr. Frank Fan’s groundbreaking work helped drive the development of our lead product candidate and we are grateful for his contributions to Legend,” Huang said in a statement.

As founding CSO, Fan was key in building up Legend’s cell therapy platform from scratch. Carvykti’s near-100% tumor response rate and long duration of anti-tumor effect in a group of heavily pretreated multiple myeloma patients have continuously wowed the biopharma industry, attracted J&J’s Janssen to a partnership and made Legend a poster child of innovation coming out of China.


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Now, after Carvykti’s FDA approval and a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency, Fan decided it’s time for him to step down.

“I will take some time off, plan to start over again,” Fan told Fierce Biotech. He said he will still focus on cell therapies.

Fang, Fan’s successor, was most recently Zymeworks’ senior vice president of research and oversaw the development of novel platforms, which led to a portfolio of multifunctional biologics and antibody-drug conjugates, according to Legend. Before that, Fang led discovery early development initiatives as head of discovery at AbbVie’s Pharmacyclics, developer of J&J-partnered drug Imbruvica.