Neogene Picks Cell Therapy Hub Santa Monica as U.S. Headquarters

Santa Monica Sign

Amsterdam-based Neogene Therapeutics, which launched in 2018, is setting up its U.S. headquarters in Santa Monica, California. The company has the backing of biotech guru Arie Belldegrun, founder, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Kite Pharma, which sold to Gilead Sciences in 2017 for $11.9 billion.

The new U.S. HQ for Neogene is in an old Kite Pharma campus. Neogene has leased 38,000 square feet in two Santa Monica buildings. Brent Pfeiffenberger will lead the U.S. operations and currently has 20 local employees.

Like Kite, Neogene focuses on T-cell immunotherapies. In the case of Neogene, these engineered T-cells focus on mutated proteins dubbed neo-antigens. Neogene leverages DNA sequencing of tumor biopsies to identify neo-antigens. These neo-antigens make the tumors susceptible to attack by T-cells, which can then kill the cancer cells.

Neogene announced the appointment of Pfeiffenberger as the company’s chief operating officer tasked with leading the expansion of the company into the U.S. in May. Most recently, he was a senior vice president, head of U.S. Oncology for Bristol-Myers Squibb. He previously acted as general manager of Australia/New Zealand and led the Worldwide Commercial Oncology Organization.

In a statement in May, co-founder and chief executive officer of Neogene, Carsten Linnemann, said, “Brent brings decades of extensive experience from both general operational management and commercial leadership roles. He is a seasoned executive with an outstanding track record of bringing innovative treatment modalities to patients, including immuno-oncology therapies that have changed the way cancer is treated around the world."

"We are privileged to have Brent at the helm of our U.S.-based leadership team, spearheading the build-out of our global operations from our Santa Monica headquarters. Our expansion in Santa Monica symbolizes a major step forward in our operational growth, and our ability to manufacture our own cell products will facilitate the rapid clinical translation of our innovative cell therapies.”

The U.S. leadership team will also include Mauro P. Avanzi as vice president of clinical development; Arianne Perez Garcia, vice president of translational sciences; Kanti Thirumoorthy, vice president of technical operations; and Jan J.H. Joosten as general counsel.

The facilities in Santa Monica include a 20,000-square-foot laboratory and office facility, which will be used for the company’s translational science, process development, quality groups, and G&A operations. It also leased an 18,000-square-foot manufacturing site, which plans to use for current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) manufacturing of its clinical supply of novel neo-antigen T-cell therapies. The European headquarters will remain in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where its discovery research team is based.

A big part of Neogene’s initial seed funding came from Two River, one of several companies that make up Bellco Capital, the family office founded by Belldegrun after he sold Kite. It was launched in Amsterdam because leading T-cell therapy researcher Ton Schumacher was at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. 

Schumacher is co-founder of Neogene. He had previously been chief scientific officer for Kite’s European operations before Gilead acquired Kite.

While working on its research phase through 2020, Amsterdam was the center of its operations. But as it moved into preclinical operations this year, the company chose to create U.S. operations with Los Angeles as the main location.

Linnemann told the Los Angeles Business Journal, “Southern California — and Santa Monica in particular — has become a leading hub for cell therapy development over the last decade. With a vibrant and unique concentration of expertise in the cell therapy space, it provides a strong base for talent as well as world-class facilities necessary to continue our rapid growth in this highly specialized area of oncology.”

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