Allogene Expands Leadership Team, Taps Cowen Senior Analyst as New CFO
Since Allogene Therapeutics launched in April the company has been rapidly expanding its leadership team as it drives forward with a mission of developing allogeneic CAR-T therapies. The latest company addition is new Chief Financial Officer Eric Schmidt.
As a former lead biotech analyst for Cowen and Company, Schmidt is well known in the biotech community. During his tenure at the investment firm, Schmidt became intimately acquainted with Allogene’s executive Chairman of the Board Arie Belldegrun, the former chief executive officer of Kite Pharma. Kite was the second company in the United States to secure approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its CAR-T treatment, Yescarta, for treatment of relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma. Schmidt, who worked at Cowen for 20 years, served as an advisor to Belldegrun when his former company was acquired by Gilead Sciences for $12 billion last summer. Belldegrun walked away from that particular deal a very rich man. An analysis showed the former CEO snagged $694,266,006 from the deal.
David Chang, president and chief executive officer of Allogene, called Schmidt a talented individual who has a “rare blend of insight into multiple facets of the industry,” along with strong connections within the financial community.
Schmidt has worked at Cowen since 1998. He served as managing director and senior biotechnology analyst. Before his time with the investment firm, Schmidt was vice president and research analyst covering the biotechnology sector for UBS Securities. Although he will serve as Allogene’s CFO, Schmidt will continue to serve as a senior advisor to Cowen.
Over the course of his career, Schmidt said he has “watched and analyzed” dozens of companies in their quests to bring new therapeutics to market. When it comes to the leadership team at Allogene, Schmidt said he has “greatly admired” them, as well as the investors behind that company. Schmidt added that he considers himself to be “very fortunate to be in a position to help make a difference in the lives of patients who are facing cancer.”
Allogene launched in April with $300 million in funding that it used to secure a portfolio of experimental cell therapies from Pfizer. The assets were all related to allogenic CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor T cell) therapies for the treatment of cancer. Allogeneic CAR T therapies are engineered from cells of healthy donors and stored for “off-the-shelf” use in patients. The idea is that “off-the-shelf” treatments will eliminate the need for personalized therapy, which will cut down on costs and time of treatment with CAR-T. As part of that deal with Pfizer, Allogene received the rights to 16 preclinical CAR T assets licensed from Cellectis and Servier and one clinical asset licensed from Servier, UCART19, an allogeneic CAR T therapy that is being developed for the treatment of CD19-expressing hematological malignancies. In partnership with Servier, UCART19 is initially being developed in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and is currently in Phase I. UCART19 uses the TALEN gene editing technology owned by Cellectis. Allogene and Servier plan to start Phase II trials in 2019.
Since its launch three months ago, Allogene has been building up its leadership team. Last month the company tapped Alison Moore as its chief technical officer. In her CTO role, Moore will oversee product sciences, supply chain, manufacturing, quality and technical operations. Before coming to Allogene, Moore most recently served as head of process and development at Amgen.
Also last month, Allogene assembled a board of directors that included Belldegrun and Chang, as well as Franz Humer, the former chairman of Roche Holdings; Joshua Kazam, the founder of Amgen; David Bonderman, chairman and founding partner of TPG Capital; Todd Sisitsky, managing partner at TPG; John DeYoung, head of worldwide business development at Pfizer; Robert Abraham, group head of Oncology R&D at Pfizer; and immunologist Owen Witte, a professor at UCLA.