Polverino swaps interim CSO role at Kite for permanent gig at Zymeworks

Polverino is a 25-year biotech veteran who spent 20 years at Amgen. (Polverino)

Biopharma industry vet Tony Polverino, Ph.D., has joined Zymeworks as chief scientific officer, a role he held on an interim basis at Gilead subsidiary Kite Pharma.

Zymeworks says Polverino—whose CV also includes a 20-year stint at Amgen—will have the task of advancing the Canadian biotech’s pipeline of bispecific antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates from the discovery stage and into early development and will report directly to CEO Ali Tehrani, Ph.D.

Later-stage development remains the responsibility of Diana Hausman, M.D., Zymeworks’ chief medical officer, who has been with the company since 2016.

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During his time as interim CSO at Kite, the company picked up its approval for CAR-T lymphoma therapy Yescarta and started clinical testing of other candidates including T cell receptor therapy KITE-718 for solid tumors.

“Having had the opportunity to assess Zymeworks’ technologies and pipeline, I believe they are extremely well positioned to deliver novel treatments for a number of serious diseases,” said Polverino in a release. He added that the company “will provide abundant opportunities to apply my scientific curiosity and passion for creating new medicines for patients.”

Polverino moves to Zymeworks after a particularly productive period for the Vancouver-based biotech, punctuated by positive data at this year’s ASCO meeting for its lead bispecific antibody candidate ZW25 in HER2-positive cancers, a $1 billion-plus collaboration with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit and a recently expanded $485 million deal with Daiichi Sankyo.

“Tony joins us with an extensive and productive background in drug discovery and development,” said Tehrani in the release. “With expertise in biologics, antibodies, and small molecule therapeutics, as well as a broad background in immunotherapy and cancer biology, he is well suited to lead and contribute on many fronts as Zymeworks enters the next phase of its growth in building a diversified pipeline of first and best-in-class preclinical and clinical therapeutic programs.”