Pivoting from clinical to commercial, MorphoSys loses chief scientist

MorphoSys lost its CEO earlier this year. (MorphoSys)

After the loss of its longtime CEO at the start of the year, a morphing MorphoSys is now losing its chief scientific officer just as it gears up for its first commercial launch.

Simon Moroney, M.D., who had been leading the company for nearly three decades, left the German pharma as part of a planned retirement. He was replaced by former Syntimmune CEO and ex-Sanofi and Biogen executive Jean-Paul Kress, M.D., who joined in the summer.

Kress is now losing CSO Markus Enzelberger, who had been there for 17 years and is exiting to “explore new opportunities,” according to the company, though no word yet on what they are.

He leaves next February. In his departure’s wake, the biotech’s research organization will be integrated into the clinical development segment under the lead of Malte Peters, M.D., its chief development officer.

This comes as the company is ramping up its sales team ahead of its hopes for tafasitamab, previously known as MOR208, a CD19 antibody it hopes can crash the CAR-T party with a drug it thinks provides safer, more durable efficacy without the cost or complexity of cell therapies.

MorphoSys thinks it has a shot at winning FDA approval for MOR208 in relapsed or refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) on the strength of some recent data, setting it up to bring the antibody to market in the first half of 2020.

The DLBCL trial program is testing MOR208 in combination with either Celgene’s Revlimid or Teva’s Treanda. Another study is assessing MOR208 plus Venclexta or Zydelig in chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients.

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And it’s got the cash to follow through: MorphoSys raised $208 million through its IPO listing in April of last year, topping its $150 million goal and without the help of its previous investors.

Earlier this year, the Planegg, Germany-based biotech picked up EMD Serono’s senior commercial vice president of oncology, David Trexler, to serve as president of its U.S. subsidiary.

But in clinical terms, things have not always been so easy: Just last month, MorphoSys and partner Galapagos said they were cutting off development of their Novartis-backed drug MOR106 in atopic dermatitis.

The cull comes after the three were hit by analysis done in the middle of a phase 2 test that showed it was likely to fail.

Shares in the company on the Nasdaq were off by 1.5% in early trading this morning.