U.K. biotech Kymab nabs new CEO from Merck KGaA

Kymab has one clinical-stage asset, dubbed KY1005, an anti-OX40L antibody developed for immune-mediated diseases. (Kymab)

Kymab has hired on a new CEO, Simon Sturge, to usher the antibody specialist into its next phase of growth. Sturge joins from Merck KGaA, where as an executive vice president he oversaw business development and global strategy and operations. Sturge will take over from David Chiswell, who has been steering the ship since 2015, first as interim CEO before taking on the post full-time. 

Before his EVP role, Sturge was chief operating officer of Merck KGaA’s Healthcare business. During his time at the German pharma, he headed up the launches of a couple of drugs—cancer treatment Bavencio and Mavenclad for multiple sclerosis—and was “responsible for the continued growth of sales at Merck KGaA,” Kymab said in a statement. 

It is this experience Kymab is looking to tap as it progresses a suite of antibodies into and through the clinic. 

“Led by Simon, Kymab will continue to progress its innovative portfolio of products through the clinic and to market, driving our strategy to transform patients’ lives. This appointment is part of Kymab’s strategy to position itself for long-term success, building on the incredibly strong R&D foundation of the Company,” said Martin Nicklasson, non-executive chair of Kymab’s board, in the statement. 

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Sturge has also put in time at Boehringer Ingelheim, heading up R&D and commercialization of the company’s biosimilars portfolio. And before jumping into Big Pharma, he had been somewhat of a serial CEO, helming various companies including Celltech Biologics, Lonza Biologics, Octoplus and Ribotargets, which he also founded. 

“I am excited to have this opportunity to head Kymab at such a transformative time in its development,” Sturge said in the statement. “With its competitive antibody research platforms and evolving clinical pipeline, Kymab is well positioned as it progresses into an integrated discovery and development company.” 

Kymab has one clinical-stage asset, dubbed KY1005, an anti-OX40L antibody developed for immune-mediated diseases. It has a T cell activator-agonistic antibody for immuno-oncology and an anti-BMP6 antibody for anemia of chronic inflammation following close behind. In total, Kymab has 18 programs across immuno-oncology, hematology and infectious diseases, in addition to immune diseases. A handful are nearing IND-enabling studies, but most are still in the preclinical stage. The company’s most recent funding round was a $100 million series C in 2016 led by Hong Kong’s Ori Fund.