Little-Known Synthorx Names Former Cleave CEO as New Leader

Synthorx Laura Shawver

After six years helming the Bay Area’s Cleave BiosciencesLaura Shawver has headed south to take over as chief executive officer for synthetic biology leader Synthorx, Inc.

Shawver, a long-time industry veteran, will assume the role of president, CEO and director of the small company. She takes over after former CEO Court Turner left the company in August.  Synthorx, which was founded by Avalon Ventures, uses its expanded genetic alphabet platform to discover and develop novel protein therapeutics. The platform is believed to drive the “site-specific incorporation of multiple synthetic amino acids into proteins,” which the company believes will tune receptor specificity to improve efficacy and safety.

Shawver said the Synthorx technology has been optimized and the company has been able to integrate the technology to create improved protein therapeutic candidates, dubbed Synthorins.

“We are all stoked to now move to the next phase demonstrating that Synthorins can help patients in a way not previously possible. It is truly revolutionary technology that we intend to transform into breakthrough drugs, and I am looking forward to working with the Synthorx team to do just that,” Shawver said in a statement. 

Jay Lichter, managing director of Avalon Ventures, touted the experience Shawver brings to the small biotech company. Calling Shawver an “accomplished biotech leader, scientist, and drug developer” he said she will be capable of taking the company to the next level. Lichter, who served as interim CEO of Synthorx, said throughout her career Shawver has had success in moving discovery programs through preclinical and clinical development. 

Additionally, Lichter noted her hand in raising necessary capital to fund development and operations at other companies she helmed. In August of 2016, Shawver was instrumental in Cleave’s snagging $37 million in Series B funding to support clinical development of the company’s lead oncology drug candidate, CB-5083. That kind of experience “is exactly what we need” at Synthorx, Lichter said. In comparison, Synthorx raised $10 million in Series B last year. 

In addition to her tenure at Cleave, Shawver was also entrepreneur-in-residence for 5AM Ventures, CEO and director of Phenomix Corporation, and president of Sugen, Inc., which was acquired by Pharmacia in 1999. 

Synthorx has been shoring up its leadership team since the departure of Turner. In addition to tapping industry veteran Shawver, the company recruited Marcos Milla as its senior vice president in charge of research. Milla joined the company in August. In a statement at the time of his appointment, he touted the company’s genetic alphabet platform and said it has “tremendous potential in drug discovery.” 

“Using Synthorx's technology to precisely add new functionalities to biologic therapeutics could greatly improve drug and pharmacological properties,” Milla said in a statement. 

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