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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 8, 2019 /PRNewswire/ --
Cygnal Therapeutics, a biotechnology company pioneering the field of exoneural biology for the treatment of cancer, autoimmune conditions, inflammation, and other diseases, today announced the appointment of Pearl S. Huang, Ph.D., as chief executive officer. Flagship Pioneering developed Cygnal in its Flagship Labs innovation foundry in 2017 and 2018.

Pearl S. Huang, Ph.D. // Photo Credit: Ken Richardson

"Pearl's deep expertise in drug discovery and development and track record of bringing multiple medicines to the clinic and the market makes her an ideal leader for Cygnal, a new biology platform company tackling multiple therapeutic areas," said Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D., chairman of Cygnal Therapeutics and CEO of Flagship Pioneering. "We are pleased to welcome Pearl as CEO of Cygnal and to the Flagship family."

Pearl most recently served as senior vice president and global head of therapeutic modalities at Roche, where she oversaw the discovery of biologic, small molecule, and nucleic acid-based therapies. Prior to Roche, Pearl was vice president and global head of discovery academic partnerships at GSK. In 2010, she founded BeiGene and served as CSO until 2012, developing the company's initial drug discovery pipeline and moving the company's first programs into the clinic. From 2006 to 2010, Pearl served as vice president, oncology integrator, discovery and early development at Merck, leading 14 early development teams and conducting seven first-in-human trials in one year. Prior to that, she led oncology discovery at GSK, initiating the programs that delivered tramentinib and dabrafenib to patients.

The peripheral nervous system (PNS) was first described in the 1930s as an anatomical structure composed of nerves working outside of the central nervous system. The PNS is distributed across the human body and extends into every organ. Exoneural biology is a novel concept that is focused on the contribution of peripheral nerve signaling to non-neural biological processes. Cygnal has identified a number of traditionally neuronal targets that play a role in cancer progression and metastasis, inflammation, and autoimmune disease. The company is developing drugs targeting these novel mechanisms and pathways.

"Cygnal has uncovered what promises to be a new hallmark of cancer and immunological control and is arguably the first biotechnology company broadly tackling this space," said Avak Kahvejian, Ph.D., founding CEO of Cygnal and partner at Flagship Pioneering. "With Pearl on board, Cygnal is now poised to exploit its knowledge of this new biology through the design, manufacture, testing, and distribution of multiple novel candidate therapeutics."

Pearl received her undergraduate degree in life sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton University.

"I am tremendously excited to take the helm at Cygnal, whose scientists have uncovered paradigm-shifting biological insights and are now applying them to the development of entirely novel therapies," said Dr. Huang. "The breadth of our discoveries promises applications in a wide array of serious diseases with unmet medical need. Our initial focus will be in cancer therapeutics where other breakthroughs have still left patients without treatment. Cygnal has uncovered one of the most exciting new approaches to cancer therapeutics that I have seen in almost 30 years in the industry."

As part of her appointment as CEO, Pearl is also joining Cygnal's board of directors and is serving as a venture partner at Flagship Pioneering.

About Cygnal Therapeutics

Cygnal, a new biology platform company, was founded by Flagship Pioneering to pioneer the field of exoneural biology – the impact of the peripheral nervous system on cancer, the immune system, metabolism, and regeneration. The company is applying cutting-edge neuroscience to elucidate novel therapies to treat cancer progression and metastasis, autoimmune conditions, inflammation, and other diseases.

About Flagship Pioneering

Flagship Pioneering conceives, creates, resources, and develops first-in-category life sciences companies to transform human health and sustainability. Since its launch in 2000, the firm has applied a unique hypothesis-driven innovation process to originate and foster more than 100 scientific ventures, resulting in over $30 billion in aggregate value. To date, Flagship is backed by >$3 billion of aggregate capital commitments, of which over $1.4 billion has been deployed toward the founding and growth of its pioneering companies alongside >$10 billion of follow-on investments from other institutions. The current Flagship ecosystem includes Denali Therapeutics (NASDAQ: DNLI), Evelo Biosciences (NASDAQ: EVLO), Moderna Therapeutics (NASDAQ: MRNA), Rubius Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RUBY), Seres Therapeutics (NASDAQ: MCRB), and Syros Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SYRS). To learn more about Flagship Pioneering, please visit our website: