Replimune axes CMO role and CMO Pirzkall along with it

In a strange and seemingly out of nowhere change-up, immuno-oncology biotech Replimune is culling its chief medical officer role and its incumbent.

Andrea Pirzkall, M.D., had been the biotech’s CMO since July 2020, but, just over a year into the job, Replimune, which focuses on cancer-killing viruses, says it no longer needs the CMO role at all.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the biotech said it “has restructured the company’s management and operations such that all functions previously reporting to the Chief Medical Officer now report directly to the President and Chief Research and Development Officer, Dr. Robert Coffin or the Chief Development Operations Officer, Tanya Lewis.

“This restructuring has resulted in the elimination of the role of Chief Medical Officer, effective immediately. Accordingly, on August 25, 2021, the Company notified Dr. Andrea Pirzkall that her employment with the Company has terminated, without cause.”

Pirzkall, who came to Replimune from Chinese biotech BeiGene last summer, is now simply out of a job. There was no word on whether she will be moving to another biotech.

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With its oncolytic immunotherapies, Pirzkall had been helping Replimune’s main aim, which is to ramp up a patient’s immune response to cancer both at the site of the tumor and throughout the body. They are based on a herpes simplex virus platform and are engineered with genes aimed at boosting cancer cell killing to promote an anti-tumor immune response.

Injected directly into tumors, oncolytic viruses are designed to replicate only inside cancer cells, bringing about their death. This process releases tumor antigens that activate a local immune response, as well as a systemic one, in which T cells hunt down and destroy cancer cells throughout the body.

Now, that work will fall onto Lewis and Coffin.