Turnstone Biologics nabs Bristol-Myers R&D executive as new research chief

Bristol Myers Squibb
He will be in charge of all R&D work at Turnstone after leaving his position at BMS.

Fierce 15 winner Turnstone Biologics has poached Mike Burgess, MBChB, Ph.D., from Bristol-Myers Squibb to be its new head of R&D.

Burgess, who had been at BMS as its SVP, head of exploratory clinical and translational research since 2013, has jumped ship to the early-stage startup, which is focused on reviving the fortunes of research into oncolytic viruses and cancer vaccines.

RELATED: Fierce 15 winner Turnstone Biologics

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He’s also had stints at Roche and Eli Lilly, but here joins a much smaller company where he will take complete charge of all of Turnstone’s R&D work across all stages.

The Canadian biotech uses rhabdovirus isolates to penetrate cancer cells and then destroy them, all the while whipping up a T-cell cancer vaccine attack on tumors. It’s starting off targeting non-small cell lung cancer, breast cancer, and esophageal cancers, testing its leading candidate on its own, and in combo with Merck’s Keytruda in non-small cell lung cancer.

RELATED: AbbVie bags option on Turnstone oncolytic virus candidates

Two other programs in the pipeline are tabbed for work next year in HPV-positive cancers and one more in prostate cancer. By the middle of next year, the company is set for four active clinical programs.

“Mike is one of the most respected research and development leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, and has successfully led the global development and registration of several anticancer medicines,” said Sammy Farah, Ph.D., president and CEO of Turnstone Biologics. “Mike’s oncology expertise will be instrumental in advancing the development of our next-generation viral immunotherapies and powerful immuno-oncology R&D capabilities.”

“Turnstone Biologics is uniquely positioned to deliver breakthrough viral-based immunotherapies for patients with cancer,” added Burgess. “Its unprecedented two-in-one therapeutic approach, which combines an oncolytic virus with an antigen-specific cancer vaccine, is a powerful platform for addressing the challenges of treating different solid tumors. I look forward to working closely with Turnstone’s experienced team and founders, who are driven by science and innovation, to bring these breakthrough medicines to patients.”

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