Synlogic finds a new CSO in ex-Janssen gastroenterology chief

Synlogic is working on “synthetic biotic” medicines, living microbes that are genetically engineered to tackle the drivers of disease. (Synlogic Therapeutics)

Synlogic Therapeutics has recruited a new chief scientific officer: Scott Plevy, M.D., who headed up gastroenterology and interleukin-23 research at Janssen. Plevy joins Synlogic as the company pushes forward a pipeline of what it calls “synthetic biotic” medicines, living microbes that are genetically engineered to tackle the drivers of disease. 

“His expertise in gastroenterology, immunology, and microbiome science as well as his significant drug development experience will be very valuable to Synlogic as we continue to develop our Synthetic Biotic platform,” said Dr. Aoife Brennan, Synlogic CEO, in a statement. “We look forward to his leadership as we advance our platform and pipeline to achieve our mission of making a real difference for patients with few treatment options.”

A gastroenterologist by training, Plevy came to Janssen and then Synlogic after a career in academia. He’s led many an early-phase clinical trial and worked on translational research around immunologic approaches in microbiome-related diseases and inflammatory conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an indication Synlogic is working on with AbbVie. 

RELATED: Synlogic names Brennan as permanent CEO 

Synlogic’s most advanced program is in a phase 1b/2a study in cirrhosis patients with hyperammonemia, or excess ammonia in the blood. The condition can be caused by liver disease or genetic conditions, such as urea cycle disorders. The candidate, SYNB1020, is “living medicine” designed to consume ammonia and turn it into arginine, an amino acid used in the body to build proteins.  Synlogic’s other clinical-stage asset is a treatment for phenylketonuria that produces an enzyme to break down phenylalanine, an amino acid that people with the condition cannot process.

Aside from a preclinical-stage IBD project with AbbVie, the rest of Synlogic’s early-stage pipeline has vague targets: solid tumors, “additional oncology applications” and “additional rare metabolic diseases.” 

Plevy will take the place of former CSO Paul Miller, Ph.D., who left Synlogic this year to take the same role at Connecticut-based Artizan Biosciences.