Pfizer spinout Cerevel hires Coles as CEO

Tony Coles (National Institutes of Health)

Tony Coles has taken up the CEO role at Pfizer-spinout Cerevel Therapeutics. The appointment puts the man who led Onyx Pharmaceuticals to a $10 billion takeover in charge of using $350 million of Bain Capital’s money to advance a pipeline of neuroscience programs. 

Cerevel spun out of Pfizer with three clinical-phase assets and the major Bain investment almost one year ago. Since then, Cerevel has put together an executive team, bringing long-term Merck staffer John Renger on board as chief scientific officer and hiring people from Sangamo Therapeutics and Bain to fill other C-suite posts. 

Now, Cerevel has filled its top position. Coles began working with Cerevel as chair of its board late last year but remained focused on Yumanity Therapeutics, the biotech he co-founded and led until very recently.

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Earlier this month, Richard Peters took over as CEO of Yumanity. Coles transitioned to the executive chairperson role upon the appointment of Peters, but the change nonetheless left him with capacity to take on more work. Cerevel is the beneficiary of the change.

The Pfizer spinout becomes the fourth company Coles has run. Coles got his first shot at being CEO at NPS Pharmaceuticals. After three years at NPS, Coles moved to Onyx, where his success in guiding Kyprolis to market attracted a buyout bid from Amgen. Coles set up Yumanity shortly after the sale of Onyx and ran it up to the start of this month.

At Cerevel, Coles inherits a fairly advanced R&D pipeline. Cerevel’s lead candidates are a dopamine D1/5PA agonist and a GABA A positive modulator, both of which are in phase 2. Those drugs are trailed by two phase 1 assets and a clutch of preclinical programs.
 
With a team in place and money to spend, Cerevel plans to start six clinical trials involving the drugs by the end of next year. If some of Cerevel’s bets come off, it has a shot at improving outcomes for patients with epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, psychosis and addiction as well as fulfilling its ambition to grow into a leading neuroscience company. 

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