Seattle Genetics names former Keytruda developer as CMO

Seattle Genetics appointed Roger Dansey as its chief medical officer. He previously helped lead Merck’s late-stage oncology work, including research on Keytruda in multiple tumor types.

Dansey takes over for Jonathan Drachman, who will stay on at the company as a strategic advisor. Dansey has also served as a senior vice president at Merck, as well as VP for oncology clinical research at Gilead Sciences. Before that, he led Amgen’s global development of Xgeva.

His hiring comes as Seattle Genetics—which has had its share of ups and downs—looks to transition into a global, multi-product company.

“This is an exciting time at Seattle Genetics with both a growing, approved drug in Adcetris as well as a product pipeline with important new opportunities, including three solid tumor programs in ongoing or planned pivotal trials,” Dansey said in a statement.

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Seattle Genetics recently picked up a long-sought FDA approval for Adcetris as a first-line treatment for advanced Hodgkin lymphoma—what CEO Clay Siegall described as the company’s “biggest market opportunity” to date, and the potential for the cancer treatment to become a billion-dollar drug.

In addition, the biotech signed an immunotherapy development deal with Pieris in February, which could be worth up to $1.2 billion. Pieris will provide its agonistic costimulatory anticalin proteins, engineered versions of human proteins called lipocalins that can activate an immune system response, while Seattle Genetics will offer its antibody-drug conjugate expertise.

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This all comes after Seattle Genetics halted clinical testing of vadastuximab talirine last summer after increased patient deaths compared to placebo in a phase 3 trial—after seeing remission rates in acute myeloid leukemia reach 70% in a clinical trial.

Before that, a deal potentially reaching $2 billion fell through with Immunomedics, to develop and acquire the rights to IMMU-132 in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. Following legal battles and a shareholder revolt, the deal ended with the revelation that Immunomedics had fired its president and CEO.