Pfizer vet Gutiérrez-Ramos takes the reins at Synlogic

Synlogic CEO José-Carlos Gutiérrez-Ramos

José-Carlos Gutiérrez-Ramos, long Pfizer's ($PFE) chief of biotherapeutic research, is heading back to the world of biotech, taking the top spot at Synlogic as the startup pursues a novel approach to drug development.

Gutiérrez-Ramos, who left Pfizer earlier this month, is stepping in about a year after Atlas Venture and New Enterprise Associates backed a $29.4 million funding round for Synlogic, helping the company get rolling with a proprietary approach to synthetic biology. Using technology licensed from MIT's Timothy Lu and Boston University's Jim Collins, Synlogic is working to engineer microbes that can be tuned to have specific therapeutic effects, focusing first on rare diseases.

And Gutiérrez-Ramos brings a long track record of successful translational research, overseeing more than 25 projects in his time at Pfizer and heading up development work at GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Millennium Pharmaceuticals prior to that.

Now, with a chief executive in place, Synlogic is moving on from its stealthy platform development and unveiling its pipeline. Tapping its microbe-engineering engine, the biotech is developing two preclinical candidates for urea cycle disorders, which result from enzyme deficiencies, and phenylketonuria, a rare ailment caused by a gene defect.

"Synlogic has assembled an outstanding team of founders, scientists, collaborators and investors to make the potential of synthetic biology a reality for the treatment of human disease," Gutiérrez-Ramos said in a statement. "I am thrilled to lead them in this fascinating journey to change the world by bringing the future of medicine forward."

- read the statement