Scientific and Medical Experts to Leadership Team to Advance Novel Gene Therapy Platform and Programs to the Clinic
February 17, 2021 06:30 ET | Source: Affinia Therapeutics
-- Gene editing expert Charles Albright, Ph.D., joins as chief scientific officer --
-- Gene therapy development expert Petra Kaufmann, M.D., joins as chief medical officer –
WALTHAM, Mass., Feb. 17, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Affinia Therapeutics, an innovative gene therapy company with a proprietary platform for rationally designed adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors and gene therapies for rare and non-rare diseases, today announced the completion of its leadership team. Collectively, the executives represent a diverse team of proven leaders in gene therapy who have successfully developed novel platforms and translated them to medicines that have made a transformative difference in the lives of those affected by devastating diseases.
“Our calling is to broaden the reach of gene therapies for patients in need, and this starts with our proven leadership team. Members of our team have been at the forefront of the field and come from a variety of eminent organizations to innovate in the gene therapy science and programs at Affinia Therapeutics,” said Rick Modi, chief executive officer at Affinia Therapeutics. “We believe in a vastly different future medical era of one-time potentially curative medicines for patients affected by diseases, rare and non-rare. But realizing this vision requires moving beyond conventional AAV serotypes. At Affinia Therapeutics, we are uniquely positioned to engineer novel vectors and gene therapies that direct tissue tropism and have the potential to improve clinical efficacy, as well as immunogenicity and safety. Together, Dr. Albright, Dr. Kaufmann and the rest of our leadership team will leverage their extensive experience to advance our platform and programs.”
Dr. Albright joins Affinia Therapeutics from Editas Medicine, where he served as executive vice president and chief scientific officer and led the development of the CRISPR gene editing technology platform. In this role, he industrialized and matured the platform and translated it to pioneering programs through Investigational New Drug (IND) submissions that led to clinical trials. Prior to joining Editas, Dr. Albright spent over 12 years at Bristol Myers Squibb, where he most recently held the position of vice president, genetically defined diseases and genomics. As a research leader at both biotech and large pharmaceutical companies, he has honed his expertise across a range of therapeutic areas including neurology, neuromuscular, cardiovascular, ophthalmology and oncology. Dr. Albright earned a Ph.D. in biology at MIT and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute.
Dr. Kaufmann is an expert in translational medicine and clinical development focused on neuroscience, rare disease and gene therapy. She recently served as senior vice president and head of clinical development, analytics and translational medicine at Novartis Gene Therapies. She directed clinical development activities that included the global development of Zolgensma® and translational strategy for several pipeline programs. This followed many years of clinical research and development positions in academia and at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she held leadership roles of increasing responsibility, most recently as director of the Office of Rare Diseases Research. Dr. Kaufmann earned an M.D. at the University of Bonn and an M.S. in biostatistics at Columbia University, where she also trained in neurology and served as a tenured faculty member, advancing research and caring for patients.
“It is exciting to see the platform generate advances beyond the conventional AAV serotypes discovered many years ago,” said Dr. Albright. “Affinia Therapeutics’ platform for engineering next-generation vectors with specific pharmacodynamic properties enables us to explore the potentially curative benefits of gene therapy in new indications. I look forward to leading the scientific team as we advance these insights into translational opportunities in the clinic and, ultimately, into transformative therapies for patients.”
“I am thrilled to join this team of gene therapy experts who are helping to broaden the reach of gene therapies,” said Dr. Kaufmann. “I look forward to putting my clinical research and development experience into practice as we translate our differentiated AAV vectors into transformative medicines for people suffering from diseases that have been inadequately addressed by conventional AAVs and traditional therapies.”
Dr. Albright and Dr. Kaufmann join the following individuals on Affinia Therapeutics’ leadership and scientific advisory team:
Chief Executive Officer Rick Modi – As chief business officer at AveXis, Mr. Modi helped develop an end-to-end gene therapy company and launched Zolgensma®, the first systemic gene therapy in the United States. Prior to AveXis, he held business leadership roles at several biotech companies, including senior vice president of global marketing at InterMune, and vice president of corporate strategy and portfolio management at MedImmune/AstraZeneca.
Chief Legal Officer Rob Aboud – As vice president, business strategy and operations, and assistant general counsel at GlaxoSmithKline, and as partner at Faber Daeufer & Itrato, Mr. Aboud has closed more than 50 deals. These ranged from strategic biotech/pharma licensing transactions to academic collaborations to mergers and acquisitions, including many in gene therapy.
Chief Business Officer Paula Cobb – Ms. Cobb most recently was chief operating officer at the gene therapy company Decibel Therapeutics. Prior to that, she spent nearly 14 years at Biogen, where she most recently held the role of senior vice president and franchise lead, first for the multiple sclerosis business and then for rare diseases. Ms. Cobb also served on the board of directors of the gene therapy company Nightstar prior to its acquisition by Biogen.
Chief Technical Operations Officer Rob May – As vice president and North Carolina site head at AveXis, Mr. May led the design, build and operations of a state-of-the-art 170,000-square-foot GMP-grade gene therapy manufacturing plant for clinical and commercial supply. Prior to AveXis, he spent nine years at Novartis/GSK Vaccines, where he most recently held the position of U.S. head of technical development operations, and 17 years at Amgen.
Chief Development Officer Laura Richman, D.V.M., Ph.D., DACVP – Dr. Richman was senior vice president of research and development at Arcellx. Prior to that, she served as executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine Gene Therapy Program (GTP). She also spent over 13 years at MedImmune, where she most recently held the position of vice president, research and development – translational sciences. She has led preclinical development of over 20 gene therapy programs.
Scientific Adviser and Co-Founder Botond Roska, M.D., Ph.D. – Dr. Roska is a founding director of the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel, and professor in the Faculty of Science and in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Basel. He is a leader in the areas of gene therapy, regulatory elements and neuronal circuits.
Scientific Adviser and Co-Founder Aaron Tward, M.D., Ph.D. – Dr. Tward is an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He is a surgeon-scientist and a pioneer in the application of high-throughput sequencing technologies to critical problems in biomedicine.
Scientific Adviser and Co-Founder Luk Vandenberghe, Ph.D. – Dr. Vandenberghe is the Grousbeck Family Chair in Gene Therapy and director of the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. He is co-founder of the gene therapy companies Akouos, Odylia, Albamunity and Affinia Therapeutics. Dr. Vandenberghe is co-inventor of AAV9, a vector used in many gene therapies.
This team has collectively authored more than 450 publications, holds more than 15 patents, held meaningful roles on more than 15 BLAs, supplemental BLAs and product launches, and has executed on more than $16 billion in value for IPOs and M&As.
About Affinia Therapeutics At Affinia Therapeutics, our purpose is to develop gene therapies that can have a transformative impact on people affected by devastating rare and non-rare diseases. Our proprietary platform enables us to methodically engineer novel AAV vectors and gene therapies with potentially improved tissue tropism, cell specificity, immunogenicity and safety. With our innovative science, we are working to broaden the reach of life-changing gene therapies to meaningful numbers of patients with an initial focus on central nervous system (CNS) and muscle diseases with significant unmet need. www.affiniatx.com.
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