Shih, fresh from selling Disarm to Lilly, takes up CEO post at CAR-NK specialist Catamaran

Catamaran Bio CEO Alvin Shih, M.D. (Catamaran Bio)

Catamaran Bio has named Alvin Shih, M.D., as CEO. Shih arrives at the allogeneic CAR-NK cell specialist fresh from leading Disarm Therapeutics to a takeover by Eli Lilly.

Massachusetts-based Catamaran is one of a clutch of companies trying to harness the attractive elements of natural killer (NK) cells, such as their off-the-shelf potential and ability to penetrate solid tumors, to create engineered cell therapies that improve on existing CAR-Ts. Catamaran broke cover with a $42 million series A last year and has now hired a CEO to oversee the use of the money.

Around the time Catamaran disclosed the series A, Shih secured a buyout bid from Lilly for Disarm. Shih served as CEO of the neurological disease biotech for around 18 months, in which time it shared preclinical data on small-molecule SARM1 inhibitors that persuaded Lilly to pay $135 million upfront.

Earlier in his career, Shih worked as CEO of Enzyvant Therapeutics, head of R&D at Retrophin—which he joined months before Martin Shkreli was ousted as CEO—and chief operating officer at Pfizer’s rare disease unit. 

In a statement, Kevin Pojasek, Ph.D., founder and initial executive chairman of Catamaran, said Shih’s “exceptional leadership skills for high-growth biotech companies” make him “an ideal fit to lead the next phase of growth and CAR-NK cell therapy product development.”

Shih will apply those skills to a pipeline that remains under wraps. Catamaran has discussed what it sees as the benefits of its platform, dubbed Tailwind, and the engineered, off-the-shelf cell therapies it generates but is yet to share details of its pipeline. With two programs at the lead optimization stage, further details of Catamaran’s initial target and indications could emerge on Shih’s watch.