Lycera, a Midwestern Biotech Star, Moves Head Office to Boston, Hires Biogen Vet as CEO
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degree, and 20 years of experience working his way up at Eli Lilly, Amgen, and Biogen Idec. Sibold was responsible for about $2.5 billion of commercial products in the U.S. at the time he left Biogen in August.
That’s when he started scouting for his first big opportunity to be a CEO. One day he met with Jeff Leiden, a managing director with Clarus Ventures in Cambridge, MA. Leiden is a former president of Abbott, and so he knows more than most about the autoimmune business through his experience with adalimumab (Humira), which has grown into a billion-dollar molecule. He serves on the board of Lycera, and he introduced Sibold to the team at Lycera.
Sibold says he found all the ingredients he was looking for: World-class science, a team of people with a lot of experience, top-notch investors and board.
The company is still very much in its infancy. It doesn’t have any drugs in clinical trials, and neither Glick nor Sibold would offer a timeline for reaching that milestone.
But Glick did say that Lycera has validated two different novel targets on cells in 10 different rodent models of autoimmune disease. The first is made to block ATPase, an enzyme that controls the energy source of a cell. Lycera’s insight here is in recognizing a critical difference in the way this enzyme functions in diseased T cells of the immune system, compared with healthy T cells that people need to fight off foreign invaders like viruses. Lycera hopes to make conventional small-molecule pills that can bind with the enzyme on diseased T cells, Glick says.
The company’s other drug development program is aimed at the Th17 pathway, through some technology the company licensed from the lab of Dan Littman, a pioneering HIV researcher at New York University. This pathway is involved in producing IL-17, an inflammatory protein.
A number of other Big Pharma and Big Biotech companies have interest in these same targets, including Amgen and Biogen Idec, Sibold says. Lycera has been approached by a number of partners who have interest in the company’s drug development programs, Glick added.
There will be time to check back later on whether Lycera can live up to all the potential. But Sibold sounded giddy when we spoke during his third day on the job.
“I wanted to get involved at the beginning with a company that can really turn into a great company,” Sibold says. “Most companies bet the farm on a single platform or a single product. Sometimes they aren’t terribly innovative. This is a small company that’s targeting two novel pathways. It’s a unique opportunity. It’s a pleasure to be here.”