Voyager Lands Former Biogen Exec Al Sandrock
Dr. Alfred Sandrock Jr./Courtesy of edicionmedica.ec
It didn’t take Dr. Alfred Sandrock Jr. too long to find a new position after departing Biogen at the end of 2021. Sandrock, the former head of R&D at Biogen, has taken a position on the board of directors of Cambridge, Mass.-based Voyager Therapeutics, a company focused on developing next-generation adeno-associated virus technologies.
Sandrock joins the newly-formed executive committee on the Voyager board. In addition to Sandrock, the executive committee includes Michael Higgins, the company’s interim chief executive officer and chairman of the board, and Dr. Glenn Pierce, Voyager’s interim chief scientific officer.
In this role, Sandrock will work with company leadership to advance the development and future strategies for Voyager’s next-generation TRACERM AAV capsid screening platform and therapeutic programs. Sandrock will also work with Voyager on its external collaborations.
Sandrock joined Voyager less than a year after the company underwent a strategic shift that included the departure of both its CEO and CSO. In May 2021, the company announced its plan to shift strategies to maximize the potential of its AAV technology. And that AAV technology is something that drew Sandrock to this new role.
“Gene therapy is a compelling frontier of modern medicine. Voyager’s core technology platform stands apart for its potential to address fundamental technical challenges that have limited the application of the modality. I believe that Voyager’s platform could usher in a new era of gene therapy and enable a new wave of meaningful treatments for serious diseases,” Sandrock said in a statement.
He noted that the Voyager team had identified AAV9- and AAV5-derived capsids with unique tissue tropisms demonstrating strong potential for medical utility across a range of diseases. Sandrock said he is excited about working with Voyager’s leadership team to “help extend the reach and impact of its technology to help more patients in need.”
At Biogen, Sandrock led the development of multiple sclerosis drugs Tysabri, Tecfidera and Plegridy. He led the development of Spinraza, the first drug approved for spinal muscular atrophy, and oversaw the development of the Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm.
“The Voyager leadership team looks forward to working closely with Al as he helps to inform long-term strategies for the Company’s TRACER AAV capsid platform, therapeutic programs, and external collaborations,” Higgins said in a statement. “Voyager has made important advances in identifying unique AAV capsids that have demonstrated strong potential to maximize efficacy in target tissues, and minimize off-target toxicities associated with first-generation approaches.”
Voyager isn’t the only company to announce new additions to its boards this morning. Oncology-focused Nuvalent, Inc. tapped Dr. Emily Drabant Conley, CEO of Federation Bio, for its board of directors. Conley contributed to industry-shaping advances in genomics throughout her career, which includes a longtime stint at 23ndMe.
“I’m impressed by Nuvalent’s focus on compelling science and only advancing opportunities with best-in-class potential, both of which I believe position the company to deliver on their goal of new therapies that may help physicians and their patients stay one step ahead of cancer,” Conley said in a statement. “Additionally, I look for authenticity as a hallmark of strong leadership and am inspired to have found this clearly in CEO Jim Porter and the cultural foundation at Nuvalent.”
Rouleau is director of The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital), chair of the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery of McGill University and co-founder of the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute. Over the last two decades, Rouleau and his team have identified genes associated with neurological and psychiatric diseases, including autism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, hereditary neuropathies, epilepsy and schizophrenia.
Dagher is an attending neurologist at the Montreal Neurological Institute. His clinical specialty is movement disorders, with a focus on Parkinson’s disease. His research has shed light on the cognitive deficits in Parkinson’s disease, stress and anxiety, schizophrenia, drug addiction, obesity, and pathological gambling and other behavioral addictions.