Two Cell Therapy Companies Bag New CEOs

Leader CEO

Diana M. Brainard is jumping ship to take over the helm of AlloVir. Brainard, an infectious disease expert, will leave Gilead Sciences to take over the role of chief executive officer of the company focused on developing allogeneic cell therapies to control infections in immunocompromised patients.

Current AlloVir CEO David Hallal will step down from that dole and continue to serve as executive chairman of the board of directors. Hallal led the company from launch through a $276 million IPO last year. Shares of AlloVir inched up slightly upon news of the CEO transition.

Hallal touted Brainard as his successor. He said she will be able to leverage her extensive virology expertise and broad leadership experience to drive the next phase of AlloVir’s growth.

Brainard, who currently serves as senior vice president and head of the Virology Therapeutic Area at Gilead Sciences, is well familiar with AlloVir. She has served on the board of directors alongside Hallal since 2019, first as an observer and then as an independent director. Brainard, a physician-scientist specializing in infectious diseases, has spent the past 10 years at Gilead expanding the virology business, including the approval of remdesivir for COVID-19. Last year, the Gilead virology business generated more than $20 billion in revenue for the company.

Since joining the AlloVir board in 2019, the same year the company launched, Brainard said she has been “impressed and inspired” by the potential of the company’s virus-specific T-cell platform and clinical data. AlloVir is developing allogeneic, off-the-shelf virus-specific T Cell (VST) therapy candidates targeting 12 devastating viruses, including COVID-19. AlloVir collects blood from third-party donors whose T-cells have been exposed to viruses. The company then grows those cells in its laboratory to develop its antiviral therapy. 

“In recent months, the team has initiated three clinical trials with the company’s lead therapy, Viralym-M, and a proof-of-concept clinical trial with ALVR109, a SARS-COV-2 virus-specific T-cell therapy. I’m honored by the confidence of the board and look forward to working with our dedicated staff to continue AlloVir’s relentless focus on scientific rigor and operational excellence to bring transformative new therapies to patients with, or at risk for, devastating and life-threatening viral diseases,” Brainard said in a statement.

Prior to her time with Gilead, Brainard worked for Merck in early drug development both in clinical pharmacology and as the Infectious Diseases Lead in translational medicine. Some of her early work was focused on HIV immunology and T cell trafficking. Brainard also serves as an Independent Director on the board of the Gilead Foundation and is a member of the TriNetX strategic advisory board.

AlloVir isn’t the only company this week to announce a new CEO. Abeona Therapeutics announced Michael Amoroso, the company’s current chief operating officer, will take over the role of president and CEO. Amoroso will also take a seat on the company’s board of directors.

Steven H. Rouhandeh, chairman of the Abeona Board of Directors, said Amoroso’s promotion reflects his “unwavering commitment and outstanding operational leadership during a period of important transition for the company.” As COO, Amoroso was the principal executive officer at Abeona.

“Under Michael’s stewardship, Abeona has remained focused on the strategy of providing our novel gene and cell therapies to patients who currently have no approved treatment options, delivering on meaningful milestones across our three clinical development programs during the last six months,” Rouhandeh said in a statement.

As COO and principal executive, Amoroso has been responsible for overseeing the operational management of Abeona, including research and clinical development, regulatory, medical, commercial, corporate affairs and business development.

Abeona’s lead program EB-101, an autologous, gene-corrected cell therapy for recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, is in Phase III development. The company is also developing gene therapies for Sanfilippo syndrome types A and B (MPS IIIA and MPS IIIB), as well as ophthalmic diseases with high unmet medical needs.

Prior to joining Abeona, Amoroso held various senior-level executive positions at leading biopharmaceutical companies, including Kite, Eisai Inc., Celgene Corporation, and Aventis (now Sanofi).

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