Gopi Shanker, Ph.D., of Novartis, is the newest R&D executive to leave the Swiss pharma giant, taking over as chief scientific officer of gene therapy startup Tevard Biosciences. Shanker joins Jeff Engelman, M.D., Ph.D., who left Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR) in late April to start Treeline Biosciences, new cancer biotech. Peter Hammerman, M.D., Ph.D., left a few days later to join MOMA Therapeutics, a biotech focused on “molecular machines.”
For Big Pharma, both Engelman and Hammerman concentrated on oncology R&D. Shanker, who previously served as the NIBR’s head of neuroscience, will now oversee the transfer RNA-based gene therapy startup’s preclinical scientific programs to get them into the clinic. Shanker will be tasked with broadening research into new clinical fields by Tevard, concentrating on gene therapy for severe and rare genetic disorders.
Novartis now has another void in its NIBR research team, as the unit, which Novartis refers to as its “innovation engine,” continues to lose talent. Shanker’s appointment came half a year after the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech announced a partnership with Zogenix to find and develop gene therapy for Dravet syndrome and other hereditary epilepsies. Tevard would receive a $10 million payment as part of the agreement and biobucks worth between $70 million and $100 million for each initiative.