Biogen’s O’Neill Heads to Sarepta Therapeutics

Sarepta

Gilmore O’Neill, formerly Biogen’s senior vice president, late-stage clinical development, jumped ship and will be Sarepta Therapeutics chief medical officer.

While at Biogen, O’Neill held various leadership roles in Alzheimer’s development, movement disorders, acute neurology, multiple sclerosis, pain, neuromuscular disease, cell therapy and rare diseases. He was involved in the eventual approval for Biogen’s drugs Tecfidera, Zinbryta, Plegridy and Spinraza.

In his new position at Sarepta, he will lead all clinical development, medical affairs, pharmacovigilance, and regulatory affairs.

A physician licensed to practice medicine in Massachusetts, O’Neill previously served as a Harvard Medical School clinical instructor and as chief resident in neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital. His subspecialty focus was on neuromuscular diseases and inherited leukodystrophies. He received his Bachelor of Medicine from University College Dublin and a Master of Medical Sciences from Harvard University.

He replaced Catherine Stehman-Breen, who joined Sarepta in April 2017. Prior to coming on as chief medical officer, Stehman-Breen had been vice president, clinical development and regulatory affairs at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals since 2015. She is currently Entrepreneur in Residence at Atlas Venture and interim chief medical officer.

“I feel extremely fortunate to welcome Dr. O’Neill to Sarepta and to our executive team as we advance our 21 pipeline programs and build ourselves into one of the most meaningful precision genetic medicine companies in the world,” said Doug Ingram, Sarepta’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement. “Gilmore is uniquely positioned to successfully lead our development strategy. He has deep expertise in neurobiology, genetic medicine and clinical development, having driven some of biotech’s most successful clinical programs. And his proven leadership ability and passion for our mission of changing lives through genetic medicine will be essential as we advance toward our goals with a sense of urgency, creativity and purpose.”

This is just another in a long line of prominent executives leaving Biogen in the last year. In August 2017, Alpna Seth, the head of Biogen’s biosimilars division, left to join former chief executive officer George Scangos at Vir Biotechnology. In June of 2017, Paul Clancy, Biogen’s chief financial officer, left to join Alexion Pharmaceuticals. Earlier in the year, Spyros Arvavanis-Tsakonas, chief scientific officer, shifted to part-time visiting scientist after making a deal with Harvard University. In March 2017, Adriana Karaboutis, executive vice president of technology, business solutions, and corporate affairs, left to become chief information and digital officer of National Grid.

O’Neill’s shift is sure to raise eyebrows given his leadership in Alzheimer’s disease at Biogen. All eyes are on the company’s efforts to move its aducanumab through an ongoing Phase III clinical trial in Alzheimer’s disease. Although the company has a strong presence in multiple sclerosis (MS) and its Spinraza for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is growing sales, much of its fortunes are tied to the success or failure of aducanumab.

At the same time, the company appears to be broadening its pipeline for neurology-related diseases. Yesterday Biogen inked an exclusive option deal with Tokyo-based TMS for TMS-007 and backup compounds for acute ischemic stroke (AIS). It also recently expanded an alliance with Ionis Pharmaceuticals to develop RNA-based drugs for brain diseases. And in March, it bought a Phase IIb-ready AMPA receptor potentiator for cognitive impairment associated with schizophrenia from Pfizer.

O’Neill said in a statement, “I was inspired to join the Sarepta leadership team by the quality of Sarepta’s pipeline and the sense of urgency within the company to advance these programs and improve the lives of patients. I’m looking forward to making a fast start, and one of my most pressing priorities will be to meet with and learn from the DMD (Duchenne muscular dystrophy) patient community.”

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