Sangamo nabs new development lead from Lilly's 'special force' research unit

Sangamo CEO Sandy Macrae
Sandy Macrae, Ph.D., Sangamo’s CEO (Sangamo)

More than half a year after its former R&D chief unexpectedly hit the exit, Sangamo has tapped ex-Eli Lilly exec Rob Schott, M.D., as senior vice president and head of development.

This comes after Sangamo ripped up and rejigged its whole R&D organization last year which saw the biotech splitting its research and development into two separate functions. The former was at the time led by Jason Fontenot, Ph.D., the biotech’s senior vice president of cell therapy.

That change-up, however, left no room at the inn for ex-Pfizer exec Adrian Woolfson, M.D., Ph.D., who left the company as its EVP of R&D as part of the change, having only joined 18 months before.

Now, it’s all changed again, as Fontenot is moving up to the chief scientific officer role and Schott will lead clinical strategy “across all phases of development and regulatory approval,” the company said in a statement, and report to Sandy Macrae, Ph.D., Sangamo’s CEO.

“I am delighted to welcome Rob to Sangamo at this important time when we expect a steady flow of data readouts from our ongoing clinical trials and are focused on clinical execution,” said Macrae.

“Rob’s leadership capabilities and drug development experience will help Sangamo advance our late-stage pipeline and prioritize our development efforts on programs with the highest likelihood to produce best- or first-in-class products.”

Sangamo has set itself up as rivaling CRISPR biotechs when it comes to gene regulation, using the so-called zinc finger platform that can repress or activate the expression of specific genes to achieve a desired therapeutic effect.

It has a pact with Pfizer for its hemophilia A gene therapy giroctocogene fitelparvovec, although last year at the American Society of Hematology meeting the drug worried some analysts by showing a decrease in durability.

RELATED: Biogen puts down massive $350M upfront for Sangamo preclinical assets

Last year, it also bagged a major deal with Biogen, which paid a staggering $350 million upfront for a series of Sangamo’s preclinical assets focused on central nervous system hopefuls with a $2.37 billion biobucks stream attached.

Schott will now take charge of this pipeline and comes to the biotech from Chorus, an in-house Lilly R&D project that it calls its ‘”special force unit” aimed at speeding early promising drugs into the clinic and thinking “outside the box” on R&D.