Atomwise bulks up executive team with Boehringer, Moderna, BridgeBio alums

As a handful of Atomwise’s artificial-intelligence-discovered small molecule drug candidates enter the preclinical testing stage, the company is building out its team of seasoned biotech executives to oversee this new chapter.

In the past few months, Atomwise has tacked on a new chief scientific officer, chief financial officer and general counsel, whose appointments were announced this week, alongside the addition of two more members to the San Francisco-based startup’s scientific advisory board.

Leading the new recruits is David Thomson, Ph.D., who joined Atomwise as chief scientific officer in November. His new role centers on devising and shaping the company’s drug development strategy and overseeing its progress.

Thomson is backed by decades of experience in the biopharma industry, with about half of his career spent at Boehringer Ingelheim. His 14 years at the Big Pharma culminated in a stint as vice president of small-molecule drug discovery and chair of its international chemistry committee. Elsewhere in his career, Thomson held executive roles at Shire Pharmaceuticals and, most recently, Precision BioSciences, where he was first named chief development officer before being promoted to chief operating officer.

“Throughout my career, I’ve repeatedly seen the lack of novel and tractable chemical leads undermine project success. The Atomwise discovery engine solves this key problem by repeatedly delivering multiple high-quality chemical starting points,” Thomson said in a statement. “I’m incredibly impressed with the results that Atomwise has produced to date, and I look forward to partnering with the team to drive and scale our technology-first drug discovery process.”

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Joining Thomson in the C-suite are Jonathan Barr and Jeffery Cerio, PharmD, Atomwise’s new CFO and general counsel and corporate secretary, respectively.

Barr took on the finance chief position in July, fresh off almost three years at BridgeBio Pharma. There, he was vice president of finance and operations, leading the pharma through its $350 million IPO and other multimillion-dollar financing waves.

Cerio, meanwhile, came aboard Atomwise in October. His bona fides include corporate and general counsel roles at Alkermes, Triplet Therapeutics and Moderna, where he, too, racked up experience guiding a biotech through its public debut—in this case, a record-setting $604 million IPO.

“David, Jeff and Jon are seasoned executives that bring us deep expertise in the disciplines that are key to the next stage of growth at Atomwise,” said Atomwise CEO Abraham Heifets. “With their leadership, Atomwise is well-positioned to advance its pipeline towards the clinic.”

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Atomwise’s deep learning-powered AtomNet AI engine is designed to spot novel biological targets that can be developed into small-molecule drugs. So far, three of its wholly-owned drug candidates and one co-developed with X-37 have moved into the post-discovery optimization stage of development.

In addition to its newly expanded executive team, Atomwise is also bulking up its scientific advisory board as it prepares to enter the preclinical research phase. New appointees to the board include Lori Kunkel, M.D.—who hails from the likes of Loxo Oncology, Pharmacyclics and Proteolix—and Ron Dror, Ph.D., a computer science professor at Stanford’s AI Lab.