Former Gilead R&D Head Emerges as CEO of Startup Kronos Backed by Gilead Chairman

Start up

Two months after walking away from his role as head of R&D and chief scientific officer at Gilead Sciences, Norbert Bischofberger has re-emerged at the helm of startup Kronos Bio, Inc.

Bischofberger is the president and chief executive officer of the new Cambridge, Mass.-based company that is focused on developing first-in-class therapies that modulate historically recalcitrant cancer targets. The company officially launched this morning with $18 million in seed financing and its new CEO.

Kronos is backed by a number of luminaries in the biotech industry, including Kite Pharma founder, Arie Belldegrun and as Gilead Sciences’ Chairman John Martin. Other investors in the company include Omega Funds, BellCo Capital and Vida Ventures. Bischofberger also invested some of his own funds into the startup.

Kronos is using technology developed by its scientific founder Angela Koehler of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Koehler’s technology uses chemical modulators of transcription factors as part of a small molecule discovery. The company said its approach is “ideally suited for rapid discovery of unique ligands that can be utilized in the generation of novel modulators or degraders of challenging targets such as transcription factors.” Bischofberger, who spent 30 years at Gilead, called the science at Kronos is compelling.

“At its core, it focuses on solutions, not limitations. It is some of the most exciting technology I’ve come across and it opens a new door for applied chemistry to solve some of the greatest challenges we face in the industry today,” Bischofberger said in a statement. “When I started at Gilead, we had approximately 25 employees. I am excited to apply the wisdom and experience I’ve gained and return to my roots in early stage biotechnology.”

Kronos Bio launches with two preclinical programs built upon hits identified from the small molecule microarrays platform, targeting MYC and the Androgen Receptor (AR). The MYC family of transcription factors are master regulators of cell proliferation and differentiation, and MYC expression is dysregulated in a large proportion of human cancers, Kronos said. Kronos is currently pursuing lead compounds that have demonstrated activity in multiple MYC-driven cancer models.

Likewise, the AR is a primary driver of disease progression in prostate cancer. The company is also pursuing “multiple hit series that target AR and its splice variants.”

Martin, the chairman of Gilead, said Kronos’ technology creates an opportunity to challenge older notions that some cancer targets cannot or should not be pursued by researchers. He said Bischofberger is “ideally positioned to shepherd this exciting technology into the next stage of development. Martin added that he is thrilled to work with Bischofberger again.

Belldegrun, who served as CEO of Kite Pharma until Gilead acquired it and its FDA-approved CAR-T program last year, will serve as chairman of the Kronos board of directors. By challenging preconceived notions about targets, Belldegrun said the future of the pharma and biotech industry is for those companies that “dare to be first.”

“Angela’s innovative research combined with Norbert’s expertise and track record of success, provides Kronos the opportunity to discover first-in-class treatments for some of the most elusive targets in oncology,” Belldegrun said. 

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