Poseida taps former Novartis VP as president of gene therapy

Poseida Therapeutics has hired former Novartis Vice President Brent Warner as president of gene therapy as the biotech looks to grow its pipeline following a potentially lucrative collaboration inked with Takeda. 

While at Novartis, Warner led the company's rare disease and gene therapy programs, including work on the pediatric treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, Zolgensma, which in fiscal-year 2021 had the highest increase in net sales of any drug in the innovative medicines category. 

Warner has had stops at other biotechs throughout his career, including more than three years at Biogen, where he grew to lead U.S. strategic operations, and at BioMarin, where he oversaw the commercialization of the company’s hemophilia A drug. He also spent more than three years at Baxalta, which later joined Takeda once the Japanese pharmaceutical acquired Shire more than three years ago.

He’ll hop into a role that will be closely aligned with Takeda, given the Big Pharma currently makes up more than 40% of Poseida’s pipeline following a licensing deal announced in October 2021. The deal includes Poseida developing up to six gene therapies with the option to tack on two additional programs in exchange for $45 million in upfront cash plus up to $3.6 billion in payments should all eight drugs reach specific milestones. 

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Brent Warner, president of gene therapy at Poseida Therapeutics
Brent Warner (Poseida Therapeutics)

More pressing, however, will be overseeing Poseida’s three oncology products either currently in or on the precipice of entering phase 1 trials, led by its allogeneic CAR-T therapy for multiple myeloma. The company received a green light from the FDA in August to proceed with an IND application for the therapy, which marked a formal transition away from its autologous therapy for the same target. 

In a third-quarter earnings report last year, the company said the allogeneic product is being favored for that disease given its “off-the-shelf” capabilities along with a manufacturing advantage. Allogeneic therapies are made in larger batches of unrelated cells, whereas autologous treatments are designed and made specifically for the patient. 

However, the company continues to pursue the autologous treatment against solid tumors, namely in patients with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer, which is also in a phase 1 trial. An additional update on that program is expected in the first half of this year. Rounding out the company’s top three candidates are an allogeneic candidate for solid tumors slated to begin a phase 1 trial next month.