Once interim, now full-time, Siffert becomes new Abeona chief

João Siffert, M.D., has been given the permanent CEO job at Abeona Therapeutics after serving as interim chief.

This comes after the departure of its disgraced former leader Carsten Thiel last November. Thiel had been hit with “allegations of misconduct towards colleagues” and was ousted; the company hopes that Siffert, a 30-year industry veteran, can help steady the ship.

A former AveXis director, Siffert was initially brought on as the cell and gene therapy biotech’s head of R&D and its CMO last year, but took over as CEO on a short-term basis when Thiel was kicked out.  

“The Board is confident that João has the right mix of character, leadership, and knowledge to focus Abeona on achieving near-term goals that will pave the way to long-term value for the company,” said Steven Rouhandeh, executive chairman. “His track record of leading successful therapeutic development programs and his experience at the Board level in gene therapy are well-suited to the opportunities that lie ahead for Abeona.”

Before Thiel’s ejection, New York-based Abeona had been steadily adding to its C-suite, which included the appointments of Siffert, ex-Alexion executive Max Colao as chief commercial officer and Neena Patil, formerly of Novo Nordisk, as its general counsel.

He also oversaw a deal between Regenxbio that gave Abeona a global license to use its AAV9 vector in the treatment of four rare lysosomal storage disorders. Abeona said it would pay at least $40 million for the right to use its vector in gene therapies against forms of Sanfilippo syndrome and Batten disease.

“I am honored to assume the role of CEO and thankful for the Board’s confidence in me. I look forward to leading and standing alongside a dedicated team of employees who are committed to bringing transformative treatments for patients in need,” said Siffert.

“The combination of important clinical milestones on the near-term horizon, a world-class cell and gene therapy manufacturing facility, and the therapeutic potential of the next-generation AIM vector platform make this an exciting time to take the helm.”