In Reorganization, Sangamo Splits R&D Unit into Separate Entities
On Wednesday, the Brisbane, California-based company announced its plans to separate the two units and treat them as individual operations with individual managers – and one of them will not be current R&D head Adrian Woolfson. Sangamo announced that Woolfson will be leaving the company.
Jason Fontenot, Sangamo’s head of cell therapy, will assume the role of Interim Head of Research and the company is seeking a Head of Development. Both department heads will report directly to Chief Executive Officer Sandy Macrae.
Macrae said the separation of the research and development teams was undertaken in order to increase the speed and efficiency of the company’s clinical translation of its science into genomic medicines.
“Managing research and development separately will allow us to industrialize zinc finger protein engineering, to retain our strength in basic research that has led to our broad and growing pipeline of genomic medicine candidates, and to add new capabilities in late-stage clinical and product development,” Macrae said in a statement.
For the departing Woolfson, Macrae said he contributed “a great deal” to the company. Macrae also praised Woolfson’s “energy and excitement” and said Woolfson “inspired many with his scientific understanding and his belief in the potential of our technology.”
In its announcement, Sangamo did not lay out the nuts and bolts of how the separate units will be structured, nor did it provide information on budgeting. Sangamo did not disclose if the current R&D budget will be divided between the two units or if a new budget plan will be required. In its quarterly report released in May, the company reported $363 million in cash resources and also secured $350 million from a recently closed collaboration with Biogen. During the company’s quarterly report, Macrae said Sangamo is “moving ahead with significant balance sheet strength.”
Sangamo announced the departmental separation a little more than a week after it and developmental partner Pfizer released follow-up data from its Phase I/II Alta study in hemophilia A. The data demonstrated that an investigational gene therapy treatment provided blood-clotting activity levels for more than one year in five patients. Those patients were treated with a high dose of the investigational giroctocogene fitelparvovec, which provided for sustained factor VIII levels in those patients. The follow-up data was released about six months after the two companies released their initial data on the gene therapy.
The company also recently entered an agreement with U.K.-based Mogrify Ltd. Under terms of the collaboration, Sangamo will develop allogeneic cell therapies from Mogrify’s proprietary induced pluripotent stem cells cell conversion technology using Sangamo’s zinc finger protein gene-engineered chimeric antigen receptor regulatory T cell (CAR-Treg) platform. This collaboration may have the potential to accelerate the development of scalable and accessible CAR-Treg cell therapies for the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, Sangamo said.