Sensei Biotherapeutics shakes up R&D suite as it nabs new CMO from Merus

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It was just two years ago that immuno-oncology biotech Sensei hired a new chief medical officer; now, it’s at it again, tapping Merus exec Marie-Louise Fjällskog, M.D., Ph.D., as it latest CMO.

Fjällskog will take over from Ildiko Csiki, M.D., Ph.D., who joined as CMO in August 2018 and had previously been vice president of immuno-oncology clinical development at Inovio Pharmaceuticals.

She will be responsible for leading clinical and development strategy and ops, the biotech said, and joins from bispecific cancer focused Merus, where she served as VP of clinical development and led the development of several clinical and preclinical bispecific antibodies.

She’s also served stints at Infinity Pharmaceuticals as well as the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research, where she served as a clinical program leader for translational clinical oncology.

Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Sensei, previously known as Panacea Pharmaceuticals, also gained a new chief scientific officer in March. Robert Pierce, M.D., came from the faculty of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center where he was scientific director of the immunopathology lab in the clinical research division.

The biotech penned a deal with AstraZeneca last summer to wed its experimental cancer drug SNS-301 with the Big Pharma’s checkpoint inhibitor Imfinzi across several solid tumors. In November, it also kick-started its own head and neck cancer trial of the drug.

It works as what it described as a first-in-class immunotherapy candidate, using a bacteriophage viral vector that targets human aspartateβ-hydroxylase.

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“We are thrilled to welcome Marie-Louise to our team. Her deep knowledge of oncology research and medicine from both an industry and academic perspective are a strong addition to Sensei as we prepare for key Phase 2 readouts and additional INDs in the coming months,” said John Celebi, CEO of Sensei Biotherapeutics.

“I’m excited to welcome her to Sensei as she shares our commitment to patients, our values, and culture. Her experience developing early stage programs into commercial products will be instrumental as our pipeline continues to mature and we evolve into a late-stage oncology development company over the next several years.”

Fjällskog added: “I look forward to continuing the development of SNS-301 and working to expand the company’s pipeline. Immunophage therapies are a new approach for cancer and infectious diseases that have the potential to drive precise antigen specific immunity and stimulate key immunomodulatory signals.”