UroGen Taps Oncology Veteran Elizabeth Barrett as Its New CEO

Nice desk in corner CEO office

Novartis and Pfizer veteran Elizabeth Barrett will take over as the new president and chief executive officer of UroGen. Barrett, who most recently helmed Novartis Oncology, will take over as Ron Bentsur steps down from his role as CEO.

Barrett will make her first official appearance as CEO of UroGen at the J.P Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco next week. Barrett has more than 30 years of experience in the field of oncology. During that time, she has gained considerable expertise in pharmaceutical development and commercialization of oncology products. That experience will be critical as UroGen looks to make the leap into becoming a leading commercial-stage entity in the urological setting.

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Barrett takes over as the company moves forward with a goal of developing the first drug approved for low-grade upper tract urothelial cancer. In December, New York-based UroGen initiated a rolling submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a New Drug Application for UGN-101, (mitomycin gel). The company hopes to see approval of the asset this year. The company’s pipeline is built on its RTGel technology platform, a sustained release, hydrogel-based formulation.

Arie Belldegrun, the chairman of the board of directors for UroGen and the former Kite Pharma executive, touted Barrett as an executive who has proven to be “an exceptional leader with a well-established track record in oncology.” Belldegrun said she has the “vision and experience” to lead UroGen as the company moves forward with the potential commercialization of UGN-101.

Barrett joins UroGen from her brief tenure as head of Novartis Oncology. Prior to that, she served as Global President of Oncology at Pfizer Inc.

In a posting on her LinkedIn account, Barrett said she chose to leave big pharma for a smaller company for several reasons. Over the course of her career, she has seen a number of significant innovations in oncology, but she said uro-oncology has been a field that “innovation has left behind.”

“Therapeutic options to manage urologic cancers are limited, and for many patients, the only treatments are surgical, involving removal of the kidney, bladder and/or ureter. UroGen is the first to take important steps to treat these patients differently,” she wrote.

Barrett pointed to the RTGel platform as a potential solution to the unmet needs in uro-oncology. She said the “simple elegance” of the platform has the “potential to revolutionize how we treat urologic cancers and beyond.” In her post, she said she wants to be part of that revolution.

Barrett added that she has had an opportunity to be entrepreneurial in her various roles throughout her career, but with UroGen, she can take those lessons and apply them to a smaller company that is on the “cusp of transformation.”

“I cannot think of a more exciting time to join UroGen and work with its outstanding team as we begin to revolutionize uro-oncology and beyond,” she said in a statement.

As Bentsur steps away from his role with the company, he said he believes Barrett will have the experience to build on the clinical successes he oversaw and guide the company through commercialization.  

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