Flagship Pioneering has named Tuyen Ong as CEO-partner. The new role sees the ex-Biogen executive join the Flagship senior leadership and serve as CEO of one of its gene therapy startups.
Ong has spent the past few years working on ophthalmology gene therapies, spending two years as chief development officer at Nightstar Therapeutics before transferring to Biogen as part of its $877 million takeover of the startup. At Biogen, Ong took up the position of head of the ophthalmology franchise.
Now, Flagship has persuaded Ong to leave Biogen and get into the founding and building of biotechs. The dual role of CEO-partner will enable Ong to contribute to the Flagship leadership team and sit on the boards of its biotechs while also serving as CEO of Ring Therapeutics.
Ring broke cover late last year when Flagship revealed it had pumped $50 million into the company. The funding positioned Ring to develop gene therapies based on a new viral vector platform. While most gene therapy startups rely on adeno-associated viruses or lentiviruses, Ring is focused on using a class of benign viruses, the anelloviruses, discovered in the human virome.
As anelloviruses coexist with the human immune system, gene therapies based on the viruses may be free from some of the limitations of existing vectors. Some patients have neutralizing antibodies against currently used vectors, rendering them ineligible for treatment with gene therapies. Many more people develop immunity against vectors after receiving a gene therapy, preventing re-dosing.
At Ring, Ong will apply the expertise he built up at Nightstar and Biogen to the development of gene therapies based on anelloviruses. Ring put ophthalmology on a long list of therapeutic areas it is targeting, alongside genetic diseases, oncology and metabolic disorders. Avak Kahvejian, Rahul Singhvi and cardiac gene therapy expert Roger Hajjar drove Ring toward this point in their roles as founding CEO, president and head of R&D, respectively. Flagship general partner Kahvejian has passed CEO responsibilities to Ong. Singhvi left Ring earlier this year.
The appointment makes Ong the latest in a series of new CEO-partners hired by Flagship. In May, Flagship hired Fabrice Chouraqui, the former president of Novartis Pharmaceuticals U.S., as its first CEO-partner. The appointment made Chouraqui CEO of Cellarity. In July, Flagship hired Guillaume Pfefer, the former global vaccine leader for Shingrix, as CEO-partner and put him in charge of Kintai Therapeutics.