BrainStorm Expands Leadership Team on Heels of Right-to-Try Controversy
Petroziello, who most recently served as head of scientific communications and publications at Juno Therapeutics, will serve as vice president of scientific & corporate communications, and Ward, who formerly served as head of early clinical development at Pfizer, will serve as head of clinical operations. The two have a combined 50 years of experience in the industry. Both will be based in the United States.
Chaim Lebovits, president and chief executive officer of BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, expressed delight in the new hires. He said the addition of Petroziello and Ward are key appointments as the company builds an infrastructure in the United States. Additional appointments BrainStorm made to shore up its leadership and company board of directors include Tony Polverino, currently the interim chief scientific officer at Kite Pharma, as well as June Almenof and Arturo Araya. Last year BrainStorm added Ralph Kern as chief operating officer and chief medical officer.
Petroziello said he was excited about joining the BrainStorm team, particularly as it moves forward with its Phase III experimental amyotrophic lateral sclerosis therapy NurOwn. Ward, too, added her excitement. “I am thrilled to join the BrainStorm team at this important time in the company's development. NurOwn has demonstrated promising efficacy in ALS and, if approved, has the potential to address the significant unmet need that exists with this disease. I see the ongoing Phase III trial as marking a pivotal moment in innovative therapies for patients with ALS,” Ward said in a statement.
BrainStorm has garnered some buzz around its ALS treatment due to the positive mid-stage clinical trial results as well as the recent Right-to-Try legislation that was passed in the United States. As Congress debated the legislation, several ALS patients told lawmakers of their hope to gain access to the drug as a chance to improve their conditions and potentially save their lives.
BrainStorm had been approached by a number of ALS patients and family members following passage of the new federal law and even toyed with the idea of establishing a small for-profit enterprise for the potential sale of the Phase III treatment to ALS patients. The plan was scrapped this week over ethical concerns and pricing issues. The company was also criticized roundly on social media for its plan and the out-of-pocket price of more than $300,000.
Similar to CAR-T therapies, BrainStorm’s NurOwn uses a patient's own cells which have been engineered outside the body, to produce and secrete factors known to promote neuronal survival. NurOwn has the potential to be the first ALS treatment to improve patient functioning as a regenerative medicine.