Ambrx Announces Abrupt Leadership Change as Longtime Executive Tian Replaced


There has been a changing of the guard at San Diego-based Ambrx, Inc. Kate Hermans has taken over the reins of the company as interim CEO following the abrupt departure of Feng Tian, who also served as chairman of the board of directors.

The company did not provide information regarding the departure of Tian, who has been with Ambrx for nearly two decades.

Interim CEO Hermans joined Ambrx last month as a member of the board of directors. She had been serving as CEO of Hermans International, a commercial and investment advisory firm she founded in 2012 for startup and early-stage organizations. Alongside her role at the advisory firm, Hermans has also held multiple roles with pharma companies, including as chief business officer at 83bar Inc. and as vice president of marketing at Radius Health. She has also held leadership roles at Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer throughout her career.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead Ambrx at this time. I have high regard for Ambrx’s extended leadership team, as well as confidence in the company’s platform technology and clinical data. As interim CEO, I will ensure a smooth transition of leadership to the benefit of all of Ambrx’s stakeholders,” Hermans said in a statement.

In addition, Ambrx, which is focused on the creation of engineered precision biologics for cancer treatment, said it intends to conduct a strategic review of its development pipeline in order to maximize commercial opportunities and extend its cash runway. The company reported it remains confident in the data exhibited by its drug candidates, as well as its platform technology. 

Ambrx’s lead asset is ARX788, an anti-HER2 antibody-drug conjugate that is currently being studied broadly in breast cancer, gastric/GEJ cancer and other solid tumor clinical trials. ARX788 has received Fast Track designation from the FDA for HER2+ metastatic breast cancer, an indication for which it is currently in Phase III. It has also received Orphan Drug designation in gastric cancer.

Other drug candidates in development include ARX517, which targets the prostate-specific membrane antigen expressed on prostate cancer cells, and ARX305, which targets CD70, a protein overexpressed in a broad range of solid and hematologic tumors.

Taking over as chairman of the board is Katrin Rupalla, who most recently held the role of senior vice president of regulatory affairs for R&D quality and medical information at Lundbeck. Before that role, she spent several years at BMS in various drug development and regulatory affairs positions. Prior to that, Rupalla held roles at Celgene, Roche and Merck. She joined the Ambrx board last year.

Rupalla touted the appointment of Hermans as interim CEO. She said Hermans is a “healthcare executive who specializes in business transformation, global commercialization and portfolio planning for healthcare companies,” which makes her the ideal choice to lead Ambrx through a strategic review of the company’s pipeline. Rupalla also thanked Tian for his roles at the company over the past 17 years, which included serving as chief scientific officer.

“We are thankful he has agreed to remain available in an advisory capacity and wish him every success in his future endeavors,” Rupalla said in a statement.

Hermans isn’t the only new face on Ambrx’s leadership team. In May, Janice Lu joined the company as chief medical officer. A longtime academic, Lu was previously a clinical professor of medicine and medical director of the breast oncology program at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In addition to conducting its strategic review, Ambrx announced it will prioritize strengthening its collaborations, particularly with its Chinese partner NovoCodex.

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