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New Blood: Biotech CEOs Bring Fresh Experience to Houston Ecosystem

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chief medical officer for San Francisco area-based KaloBios Pharmaceuticals and vice president for clinical development at MedImmune, the research and development arm of big pharma company AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN). (KaloBios has had a rocky recent history, including the arrest and ouster of former CEO Martin Shkreli, bankruptcy, and a Phase 2 clinical trial failure for its drug candidate to treat infections in cystic fibrosis patients. Nestor was dismissed along with the previous CEO in 2015.)

Molfino says he was familiar with the fact that the Texas Medical Center was based in Houston, but didn’t know much about the innovation ecosystem that might be here. “You cannot deny it’s a challenge to recruit to this area,” he says.

Still, he agreed last month to join Pulmotect, which is developing an inhaled therapeutic to prevent and treat respiratory infections in cancer patients with compromised immune systems. The company last year completed a second clinical trial to assess the safety of its lead drug candidate, PUL-042, and has raised about $18 million in federal and state grants.

Molfino says the fact that Pulmotect is a portfolio company of Fannin Innovation Studio gives the company the added benefit of having its own “micro-ecosystem” and the opportunity to work on different projects. That sort of plan B is important considering the high failure rate of young biotech companies.

“It’s a fabulous place to grow,” Molfino says. “Houston is going to be the third hub in biotech in the future.”

Zaffer Syed was a group manager for clinical marketing at Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) in Valencia, CA, when he was recruited to join Houston dental device company OrthoAccel in 2013. “This gave me startup experience … and introduced me to more of a consumer health side of things,” he says.

Though Syed says he, too, didn’t know much about Houston’s life sciences community, he saw the OrthoAccel position “as an opportunity to accelerate my growth and go back to California.”

Then, late last year, Saranas CEO Michael Magnani left the company and Syed was approached about that role. The medical device startup is developing a sheath that, inserted through a catheter, can measure electrical resistance, which changes if a rupture in a vessel causes blood to accumulate within the vessel. These types of slow blood leaks … Next Page »

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