Magenta CSO Michael Cooke jumps to IFM Therapeutics

Fresh off a $55.5 million round, IFM Therapeutics snagged a new chief scientific officer. Michael Cooke, Ph.D., joins from stem cell biotech Magenta Therapeutics, where he held the same position. 

Cooke arrives a month after Martin Seidel, Ph.D.—previously IFM’s R&D chief—took over as CEO. He will oversee the IFM's scientific and research strategy and partnerships as the company ramps up its work. In 2019, it secured Novartis as a buyer for its NLRP3-focused subsidiary, IFM Tre, and a partner for its cGAS-STING-focused unit, IFM Due. And the Swiss pharma may well scoop the latter up too—under the deal, it has a buyout option worth up to $840 million. 

IFM’s latest financing will bankroll an incubator, dubbed IFM Discovery, and up to three new subsidiaries that will take aim at “select targets of the innate immune system.” One of them, IFM Quattro, will house the first program to come out of the incubator. IFM is keeping details close to the vest, but Seidel told FierceBiotech last month that IFM Discovery’s focus is inflammatory diseases and cancers, but its work will not overlap that of IFM Tre and IFM Due. 

RELATED: IFM gets new CEO, bags another $55M to launch incubator, new subsidiaries 

The company has been spinning off R&D programs into their own subsidiaries from the start, an approach that gives it “significant flexibility” in how it funds each program, said Lina Gugucheva, the company’s vice president of business development, operations and strategy, in a previous interview. Setting up a dedicated incubator means the company can work on multiple targets at once, rather than one by one as IFM has done in the past, Seidel said. 

"Mike's extensive experience in leading R&D teams at all stages of drug development, combined with his deep passion for delivering scientific breakthroughs in areas of high unmet medical need, make him the perfect fit for IFM,” Seidel said in a statement on Tuesday. “His two-plus decades of expertise in the fields of immunology, innate and adaptive immunity and their applications to autoimmune disease, inflammation and immuno-oncology will be a tremendous asset to our team." 

RELATED: Novartis bankrolls IFM Due's cGAS/STING pipeline—with $840M buyout option 

Before he became Magenta’s top scientist, Cooke was a founding scientist at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, where he wore many hats, including executive director of immunology. He worked on a suite of discovery programs in autoimmunity, inflammation, immuno-oncology and bone marrow transplantation. 

"I am impressed by IFM's track record and am excited to take on this opportunity to discover and develop small molecule immunotherapies against novel targets in the innate immune system," Cooke said in the statement. "I believe the innate immune system provides a deep pool of validated targets for the next wave of immunomodulatory therapies and look forward to applying my experience to IFM's ground-breaking efforts in this area."