Industry Veterans Jump Ship in Favor of Smaller Biotechs
It didn’t take long for Jason Campagna to find a new role after departing Intercept Pharmaceuticals last month. Campagna will take on the role of chief medical officer for Cambridge, Mass.-based Q32 Bio, the same role he held at his previous employer.
Campagna departed Intercept in February, three months after Chief Executive Officer Mark Pruzanski exited the company. Campagna was largely responsible for Intercept’s development of obeticholic acid (OCA), its experimental treatment of fibrosis due to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
In June 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the company a Complete Response Letter rejecting the treatment. The CRL indicated that the FDA could not approve obeticholic acid due to uncertainty about the efficacy of the treatment. Also, the FDA raised concerns that the Intercept-developed drug may be too risky to provide to these patients. As a result, Intercept cut 25% of its headcount, about 170 employees in September.
Now, Campagna will bring his experience to Q32 during a critical growth and development period for the company. Q32 Bio is a clinical stage biotechnology company developing therapies targeting powerful regulators of the innate and adaptive immune systems to re-balance immunity in severe autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Q32 Bio's lead program, ADX-914, a fully human anti-IL-7R antibody, is focused on the IL-7R pathway and complement system. The company believed ADX-914 will address immune dysregulation and help patients take back control of their lives.
Campagna is no stranger to Q32. He has kept an eye on the company for several years as an advisor through Atlas Venture.
"I have always been attracted by their strong scientific team and the notion of immune system re-balancing, and have been impressed at the extraordinary, rapid advancements Q32 Bio has made in both drug discovery and clinical development," Campagna said in a statement. "I am grateful for the opportunity to join the Q32 Bio team at such a pivotal moment in the evolution of the existing and future clinical programs.”
Q32 CEO Mike Broxson touted Campagna’s experience and called him an asset to the company. Broxson pointed to Campagna’s advisory role with the company, and said he was a “trusted clinical counselor” to the company as it moved ADX-097 towards the clinic. ADX-097 is expected to begin dosing in a Phase I study in the second half of this year.
“His extensive experience leading clinical development programs and strong background in academic research will complement our leadership team in our mission to restore immune homeostasis in patients with severe inflammatory and autoimmune diseases,” Broxson said in a statement.
Prior to his role at Intercept, Campagna held a number of roles of increasing responsibility at The Medicines Company, including Senior Vice President and Health Science Lead of Surgery and Perioperative Care. Before coming to the biopharmaceutical industry, Campagna served as the Chief Medical Quality Officer at Cottage Health System, and previously held faculty appointments at the University of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Q32 wasn’t the only company to bolster its executive leadership team. Kentucky-based Talaris Therapeutics tapped Vertex Pharmaceuticals veteran Mary Kay Fenton as its new chief financial officer. Talaris CEO Scott Requadt said Fenton brings strong financial acumen and a deep understanding of the cell therapy space to Talaris.
“She has successfully led a number of companies in our industry through a wide range of important financial and operational milestones. Her appointment rounds out Talaris’ experienced leadership team and sets us up well for continued success,” Requadt said in a statement.
At Vertex, Fenton served as Vice President of Strategic Operations for the Cell and Genetic Therapies unit. Before that, she was CFO and chief operating officer of Semma Therapeutics, a company developing a cell therapy for type-1 diabetes that was acquired by Vertex. Before Semma, Fenton was CFO at Achillion Pharmaceuticals. Fenton currently sits on the board of directors of Oncorus Inc., a company developing novel viral immunotherapies for cancer.