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Novartis Pharma Ex-CEO takes three roles in two days

Published on: 05/01/18

Former CEO of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, David Epstein, has had a busy start to the year, accepting not one but three new positions in two days. The first sees him take up the position of Chairman at Axcella Health, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, based biotech, the second is the same position at Rubius Therapeutics, and the last role connects the former two, by joining Flagship Pioneering as an Executive Partner.

Flagship Pioneering is a venture capital that has backed both Rubius and Axcella, which now sees Epstein take the Chairman positions at both biotechs to help drive the companies forward. He brings with him a wealth of experience to draw upon, having worked at Novartis for a quarter of a century – a period which included being CEO & Division Head of Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

He left the company after a major restructure, which saw his role removed after the Oncology unit was separated from the business. Following in the footsteps of a number of executives leaving prominent positions within the pharma industry, he has taken the leap into the biotech area.

On his appointment to Flagship, he said: “Flagship Pioneering is breaking boundaries and exploring new frontiers that, I believe, could dramatically improve the quality of human life…Joining Flagship's disruptive innovation engine is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I welcome the opportunity to bring my passion for medicine, deep knowledge and ties to industry, and commitment to solving some of the world's greatest health challenges to bear. In particular, I am tremendously excited by the promise of Rubius' Red-Cell Therapeutics platform, as it portends the broad impact of off-the-shelf, precision cell therapies.”

Epstein will work with Rubius to develop and commercialise the platform that sees red blood cells express therapeutic proteins for use in the treatment of diseases. In particular, the biotech will look to show how its platform can inhibit cancer cell growth and activate patients’ immune systems.

While at Axcella, Epstein will take on the responsibilities of the Chairman role from Co-Founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, Dr Noubar Afeyan. The biotech is currently developing a platform to identify “Designed Amino Acid Compositions” (DAAC), in the hope that the drug candidates can be used against targets in liver, muscle and CNS diseases.

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