Company Taps Industry Leaders Epstein and Straight Nissen to Advance Potential Life Saving Technology Platform
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 4, 2017 -- Rubius Therapeutics, Inc., a Flagship Pioneering company, has announced the hiring of two key company leaders, David Epstein and Torben Straight Nissen, to accelerate development of new medicines from the company's potentially revolutionary new product platform: Red-Cell Therapeutics™ (RCTs). Specifically, Epstein is joining as Chairman of the Board and Straight Nissen as President of the company. Flagship Pioneering developed Rubius in its innovation foundry, Flagship VentureLabs®, throughout 2014 and launched the company in 2015 with an initial capital commitment of $25 million.
Through the use of patented, advanced engineering techniques and know-how the company has successfully produced red blood cells that express therapeutic proteins that enable their use for the treatment of serious diseases. Rubius is now demonstrating that these newly equipped high performing, "off the shelf" Red-Cell Therapeutics™ have pre-clinical activity across a spectrum of medical applications. For example, in cancer a red blood cell can be transformed to express multiple synergistic proteins which can both inhibit cancer cell growth as well as activate the patient's immune system. Alternatively, red blood cells have been engineered to replace missing enzymes for patients living with a variety of rare diseases, or even to remove unwanted metabolic products from the blood stream. Rubius has generated more than 200 prototypes to date. RCTs have demonstrated potential advantages compared to other cellular approaches to treating disease, such as greater durability, easier manufacturing scale-up and safety advantages due to the unique features of red blood cells.
"David and Torben bring a unique combination of scientific and business leadership experience which will accelerate Rubius' development. As founders and primary investors, we are delighted to have the duo take the helm of this transformative company from the leadership provided by the Flagship VentureLabs team," stated Dr. Noubar Afeyan, Chairman of the Board of Rubius and CEO of Flagship Pioneering.
David Epstein, former CEO of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, has joined to serve as a Chairman of the Board. He will also will be serving in the newly created role of Executive Partner for Flagship Pioneering. At Novartis, Epstein was responsible for leading the development and commercialization of over 30 new medicines including breakthroughs such as Glivec, Gilenya, Cosentyx and Entresto.
As President of Rubius, Torben Straight Nissen, Ph.D, brings 20 years of deep scientific knowledge and business experience to expand the company's platform and clinical programs. Torben joins Rubius from Pfizer, where he held multiple scientific and business leadership roles to advance the company's therapeutic innovation, research and development.
"Flagship is breaking boundaries and exploring new frontiers that, I believe, could genuinely result in breakthroughs that directly improve survival and quality of life. I am tremendously excited to be part of the Rubius board and Flagship team," said David Epstein.
"Genetically-modified red blood cells hold incredible potential to provide superior treatment for many diseases, from rare to common conditions. Rubius is working on an exciting platform that could bring forward multiple therapies and modalities that improve and save lives," said Dr. Straight Nissen. "I am looking forward to growing the company and helping Rubius harness its platform to the fullest."
Commenting on the hires, Rubius Founding CEO and Flagship Partner Avak Kahvejian said, "The past two years of development at Rubius have shown the vast scope and applicability of Red-Cell Therapeutics™. I look forward to continuing with this exciting venture in a new capacity as Chief Innovation Officer as Torben and David lead the transformation of Rubius into a development stage company in the near future."
About Rubius Therapeutics
Rubius Therapeutics is developing Red-Cell Therapeutics TM (RCTs) as a new treatment modality to address a wide array of indications including cancer, autoimmune disease, rare disease and metabolic disease. RCTs are enucleated cell-based therapies that can be engineered to have diverse activities. The company has established a platform for the rapid design, generation, testing and development of RCT products. The company was founded and launched by Flagship VentureLabs, the innovation foundry of Flagship Pioneering. For more information, please visit www.rubiustx.com.
About Flagship Pioneering
Flagship Pioneering conceives, creates, resources and develops first-in-category life sciences companies. Its institutional innovation foundry, Flagship VentureLabs®, is where Flagship's team of scientific entrepreneurs systematically evolve enterprising ideas into new fields, or previously undiscovered areas of science into real-world inventions and ventures. Since its launch in 2000, the firm has applied its hypothesis-driven innovation process to originate and foster nearly 75 scientific ventures, resulting in $19 billion in aggregate value, 500+ issued patents and more than 50 clinical trials for novel therapeutic agents. Since inception, Flagship has capitalized its growing portfolio with nearly $1 billion coming from the $1.75 billion of aggregate investor capital committed across five funds. The firm's current portfolio includes pioneering ventures that are transforming human health and sustainability, including: Agios Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AGIO), Seres Therapeutics (NASDAQ: MCRB), Editas Medicine (NASDAQ: EDIT) and Syros Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SYRS), as well as private companies including Moderna Therapeutics, Indigo Agriculture and Axcella Health. Flagship has ongoing corporate innovation alliances with several market leaders, including: AstraZeneca, Bayer Crop Science and Nestlé Health Science. To learn more about Flagship Pioneering, please visit our new website www.FlagshipPioneering.com.