Oculis snags Novartis head of ophthalmology Chang for CMO role

Oculis and Novartis's history together dates back to 2019, and now Oculis is tapping Joanne Chang, M.D., Ph.D., as its chief medical officer. 

Chang moves from the Swiss Big Pharma to the Swiss biotech two years after Novartis licensed its topical antibody to Oculis. She leaves behind her role as head of global medical affairs for ophthalmology to lead Oculis' medical and portfolio management teams, the biotech said Thursday.

Chang's arrival comes as Oculis plans for two phase 3 trials, one in diabetic macular edema and another in inflammation and pain following ocular surgery as well as two phase 2b trials, one in uveitis and another in dry eye disease. 

She will be based in the biotech's new Hong Kong office, as Oculis looks to deepen its presence in Greater China following a $57 million series C from Chinese investors BVCF and Hyfinity in May. 

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The new CMO has experience leading teams in China given her four-year stint as vice president and chief medical officer of Novartis' unit in that country from 2010 to 2014. In all, Chang spent 13 years at Novartis, also as a vice president of evidence-based medicine. She took a brief, nearly four-year hiatus at Alcon from 2014 to 2017 to head up clinical development and medical affairs in the U.S. and Canada.

Prior to those companies, Chang spent four years each at Bayer, Sanofi and Abbott. She also had an 11-month layover at Johnson & Johnson as a director of global health economics in 1999 and 2000.

“It is remarkable that Oculis has developed two first in class products, OCS-01 the first and only eye drop with proven efficacy and safety in diabetic macular edema and OCS-02 the first topical eye drop Anti-TNF alpha antibody fragment validated in severe dry eye and uveitis," Chang said in the statement.