SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Graphite Bio, Inc., a clinical-stage, next-generation gene editing company focused on therapies that harness targeted gene integration to treat or cure serious diseases, today announced the appointments of Dr. Kristen Hege, Smital Shah and Dr. Jo Viney to its board of directors. Dr. Hege is a renowned physician scientist and a pioneer in advancing cell therapies through clinical development to regulatory approval. Ms. Shah is a proven executive leader with over two decades of senior management experience in the biopharma and investment banking industries. Dr. Viney is a renowned immunologist and entrepreneur with a distinguished track record in drug discovery and development.
“Kristen, Smital and Jo are exceptional leaders with unparalleled industry leadership experience who share our vision to develop a new class of groundbreaking curative therapies. I am thrilled to welcome them to our Board of Directors,” said Josh Lehrer, M.Phil., M.D., chief executive officer at Graphite Bio. “They each bring proven experience that will be incredibly impactful for us as we look to develop a scientific strategy to fully leverage our unique targeted gene integration platform and execute on an ambitious plan to develop these potentially curative programs with urgency for patients. Their expertise will help lay the groundwork to secure the resources to grow our organization and, ultimately, commercialize and manufacture our therapies.”
“On behalf of Graphite Bio and the Board of Directors, I welcome Kristen, Smital and Jo to the Board and look forward to working with each of them as we execute on the company’s mission,” said Perry Karsen, Graphite Bio’s Board chair. “Kristen and Jo are recognized for their scientific leadership in the discovery and development of transformative medicines that improve patients’ lives, while Smital has been a trusted financial and business development executive and company advisor throughout her biopharma and investment banking career. Their diverse range of experience will enable them to offer unique and valuable guidance to Graphite Bio.”
New board member profiles:
Kristen M. Hege, M.D.
Kristen Hege, M.D., is senior vice president of early clinical development of hematology/oncology and cell therapy at Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) where her team is responsible for advancing the pipeline from first-in-human studies to clinical proof of concept. She joined BMS in 2019 following its acquisition of Celgene. Notably, Dr. Hege led the development of Abecma (idecabtagene vicleucel; ide-cel), the first BCMA-directed CAR T cell immunotherapy for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma from product concept to approval in partnership with bluebird bio. Previously, she spent nearly ten years at Celgene, where she built the early clinical development organization and led her team in the advancement of a pipeline of small molecules, biologics and T-cell therapies. Prior to joining Celgene, Dr. Hege held multiple executive roles at several biotech companies, including Cell Genesys, Cellerant Therapeutics and Theraclone Sciences.
In addition to her work at BMS, Dr. Hege, a hematologist-oncologist, is a Clinical Professor of Medicine of Hematology/Oncology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she continues to manage patients with benign and malignant blood disorders. Dr. Hege also serves on the Board of Directors of Mersana Therapeutics and served as a volunteer-at-large director for the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) for a three-year term from 2016-2019. In 2015, Dr. Hege was recognized by Fierce Biotech among the Top 12 Women in Biopharma. Her career path and long history with CAR T cell development was featured in the “Turning Points” series as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of Nature Medicine.
Smital Shah is chief business and financial officer of ProQR Therapeutics, a biotechnology company focused on rare genetic diseases. She joined ProQR in 2014 as chief financial officer. At ProQR, her broad leadership portfolio includes responsibility for finance, investor relations and communications, business development and commercial operations. Previously, Ms. Shah served as corporate treasurer at Gilead Sciences.
Her proven management and leadership experience in the biopharma industry is augmented by her earlier career in investment banking, where she has particular expertise in financial strategy, capital markets and business development. Prior to Gilead, Ms. Shah spent several years in investment banking at Leerink Partners and J.P. Morgan focused on the biotech sector. She helped raise over $1 billion in equity capital and over $7 billion in debt capital for emerging and established biotech companies and advised on merger and acquisition strategies. Earlier in her career, she held various research and development positions at Johnson & Johnson. Ms. Shah is a board member and chair of the audit committee at Pliant Therapeutics.
Jo Viney, Ph.D.
Jo Viney, Ph.D., currently serves as president, chief scientific officer and co-founder of Pandion Therapeutics, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., where she is developing novel therapeutics designed to address the unmet needs of patients living with autoimmune diseases. Prior to founding Pandion, Dr. Viney served most recently as senior vice president of drug discovery at Biogen. Previously, she has also served in roles including executive director of inflammation research at Amgen, and director of autoimmunity and inflammation research at Immunex Corporation (acquired by Amgen in 2002).
Throughout her career, Dr. Viney has been an advocate for workplace inclusiveness. From 2015 – 2020, she served on the Board of WEST, a non-profit organization supporting early to mid-career women, and was WEST’s President for the 2017-2018 term. Dr. Viney has maintained longstanding memberships with the Society for Mucosal Immunology (SMI) and American Association of Immunologists (AAI). She has served numerous terms on the SMI Board and was president from 2011-2013. Together with SMI colleagues and Nature Publishing Group, she launched the journal Mucosal Immunology. In 2015, Dr. Viney received SMI’s Distinguished Service Award. In 2020, Jo was chosen as one of FiercePharma’s Fiercest Women in Life Sciences. Dr. Viney is also a member of the board of directors for Finch Therapeutics and Harpoon Therapeutics, and she serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for HotSpot Therapeutics.
About Graphite Bio
Graphite Bio is a clinical-stage, next-generation gene editing company harnessing high efficiency targeted gene integration to develop a new class of therapies to potentially cure a wide range of serious and life-threatening diseases. Graphite Bio is pioneering a precision gene editing approach that could enable a variety of applications to transform human health through its potential to achieve one of medicine’s most elusive goals: to precisely “find & replace” any gene in the genome. Graphite Bio’s platform allows it to precisely correct mutations, replace entire disease-causing genes with normal genes or insert new genes into predetermined, safe locations. The company was co-founded by academic pioneers in the fields of gene editing and gene therapy, including Maria Grazia Roncarolo, MD, and Matthew Porteus, MD, PhD. For more information, please visit www.graphitebio.com.