Hard on the heels of a big IPO and a lucrative deal with Takeda, one of Denali’s top executives is leaving the company to join anti-aging startup Alkahest.
Jonas Hannestad, M.D., Ph.D.—who is also adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine—is taking up the role of senior medical director at Alkahest, moving on from the medical director role he had at South San Francisco-based Denali.
Hannestad’s specialty is neurosciences, including PET imaging in neuroinflammatory and other neurological disorders, which is a good fit for his role at Alkahest heading up clinical programs in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The company is looking at using infusions of plasma from young donors, thought to be rich in soluble factors that it hopes will help counteract nerve cell degeneration.
While still in early-stage development, toward the end of last year Alkahest reported preliminary data in nine patients that suggested improvement in functional activity in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s.
Hannestad is leaving Denali at a time when its star seems to be in the ascendency. His departure comes shortly after the biotech signed a partnership deal with Takeda, including $150 million in upfront cash and stock, that is focusing on three candidates for neurodegenerative diseases based on Denali’s ATV delivery tech that ushers drugs across the blood-brain barrier.
That deal came shortly after it raised $250 million in an IPO last month, although as it stands just one of its programs—LRRK2 inhibitor DNL201 for Parkinson’s—has reached the clinical trials stage.
Hannestad is one of two new hires for Alkahest along with Karl Trass, who joins the San Carlos biotech from Tobira Therapeutics where he was vice president, regulatory affairs prior to Tobira's acquisition by Allergan in 2016.
Alkahest chief operating officer Helen Jenkins said the new appointments will expand the development team at the company “as we work to bring innovative medicines to patients with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and other serious diseases of aging.”