Synlogic hires ex-Alnylam VP to lead medical department

Synlogic Chief Medical Officer Richard Riese (Business Wire)

Synlogic has named Richard Riese as chief medical officer. The arrival of the ex-Alnylam vice president is one of several changes at the top of Synlogic’s medical, regulatory and financial departments.

Riese spent 15 years at Alnylam, rising to the position of VP of clinical development. The roles gave Riese a hand in the advance of a clutch of rare disease drugs, including glycolate oxidase-targeting RNAi therapeutic lumasiran. Riese was part of the team that took lumasiran into phase 3 in patients with primary hyperoxaluria type 1.

Now, Riese will apply that experience to Synlogic’s pipeline. Synlogic hired Aoife Brennan as CMO in 2016. Brennan retained the CMO responsibilities upon her promotion to the CEO position last year but will now pass them on to Riese and focus squarely on leading the business. 

The transfer of responsibilities comes shortly after Synlogic killed off an ammonia-lowering drug in response to early phase data. The failure of the drug, SYNB1020, left Synlogic focused another clinical asset, phenylalanine-consuming candidate SYNB1618, and preclinical solid tumor therapy SYNB1891.

Riese will work to move these assets forward in cooperation with the existing team at Synlogic and another new arrival, Michael Slater. Synlogic previously worked with Slater on a consultancy basis and has now appointed him head of regulatory affairs. Slater held the same title for some of his nine-year spell at Merrimack Pharmaceuticals. 

The arrivals coincide with the departure of Synlogic’s chief financial officer, Todd Shegog, who is due to leave the company later this month to pursue another opportunity. In a regulatory filing, Synlogic preemptively moved to kill off speculation about the exit by stating, “Shegog did not resign as a result of any disagreement with the Company relating to the Company's operations, policies or practices.”

Synlogic has begun looking for a new CFO, but, given Shegog’s imminent departure, will likely need to manage without a permanent financial chief for a period.