Oxford BioTherapeutics raids Celgene for CMO as I-O trial plan takes shape

handshake / shaking hands
Fandi led the development of certain oncology assets at Celgene. (Image: daizuoxin/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Oxford BioTherapeutics (OBT) has lured Abderrahim Fandi, M.D., Ph.D., away from Celgene to serve as its CMO. The appointment puts Fandi in charge of developing OBT’s immuno-oncology candidates.

Fandi joins OBT from Celgene, where he spent seven years. In that time, Fandi led the development of certain oncology assets and took charge of the biotech’s epigenetic program. Fandi had the title of executive director, site head by the time he left Celgene.

OBT hopes these experiences and others Fandi accrued during stints at Novartis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca and Sanofi will equip him to take assets forward. A CD157-targeted monoclonal antibody discovered by OBT advanced into human testing several years ago but the biotech’s partner Menarini sponsored that study.

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Menarini also took the lead on moving MEN1309 into a European clinical trial. But with OBT retaining responsibility for development of the antibody drug conjugate (ADC) in North America, the Oxford, U.K.-based startup needs to establish its own clinical trial capabilities to progress. That is where Fandi comes in. 

“Rahim brings a wealth of drug development expertise to OBT which will significantly benefit the company as we move our clinical development program forward in the United States for MEN1309, our novel ADC therapy currently undergoing clinical testing in Europe,” said OBT CEO Christian Rohlff, Ph.D., in a statement.

A U.S. clinical trial of MEN1309 is high on Fandi’s to-do list. The European trial is testing the drug in patients with CD205-positive metastatic solid tumors or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

Further back in the pipeline, OBT has a wholly-owned antibody Fandi singled out in comments he made after joining the biotech. The antibody, OX001R, targets a tumor escape mechanism independent of PD-1/PD-L1. With data from preclinical lung cancer models suggesting OX001R delivers comparable efficacy to Merck’s Keytruda via an unrelated mechanism, OBT is racing to move the asset toward the clinic.