BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Kojin Therapeutics, Inc., a pioneer in cell-state and ferroptosis biology and cutting-edge drug discovery, today announced the appointment of Harvey J. Berger, M.D. as its new chairman, president, and chief executive officer. A biotech-industry veteran, Dr. Berger is an experienced physician-scientist and entrepreneur, who brings over 35 years of global research and development (R&D), corporate, and commercial leadership experience to Kojin. He founded ARIAD Pharmaceuticals and led the company from a start-up to a fully integrated global oncology company. In this and other leadership roles, Dr. Berger spearheaded the development and approval of six innovative, breakthrough medicines for patients with cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disease, as well as a cancer-diagnostic blood test.
Kojin co-founder Professor Stuart Schreiber stated, “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Berger, a long-time colleague and collaborator, as Kojin’s new chief executive. Ferroptosis and apoptosis have a yin-yang relationship, and apoptosis biology has had a transformative impact on medicine. As a new area of drug discovery, ferroptosis biology offers a wide-open opportunity for medicine and an area where Kojin has a strong first-mover advantage. Kojin is pioneering a new class of therapeutics that result from a deep mechanistic understanding of the human cellular plasticity that connects these two fundamental cell states.”
Speaking on behalf of the Board of Directors, Dr. Eric de La Fortelle, managing partner of Cathay Health, said, “We invested in Kojin because of its first-rate potential to provide novel therapies for patients with chronic diseases based on completely new mechanisms of action. Transforming this cutting-edge science into attractive new medicines requires highly experienced and dedicated ‘drug hunters,’ which is why we are delighted that Dr. Berger has stepped in to lead the company in its next phases of development.”
Dr. Berger added, “I am grateful for the opportunity to take on the leadership of Kojin at this critical time and to collaborate closely again with Stuart Schreiber, our other scientific advisors, and our outstanding team of innovative scientists. I believe the company’s deep understanding of ferroptosis and cellular metabolism, coupled with its multi-modality drug-discovery platform, position it for success in bringing life-saving medicines to patients in need of differentiated, first-in-class therapies for chronic diseases. Our priority is to translate stunning basic research discoveries to clinical medicine and make the transition to clinical development as soon as possible.”
Dr. Berger started in the biopharmaceutical industry in 1986 at Centocor – one of the first-generation biotech companies dedicated to pursuing the therapeutic and diagnostic applications of monoclonal antibodies – where he oversaw the company’s R&D programs as executive vice president and president of research and development. Subsequent to his lengthy stint at ARIAD, he became executive chairman of Medinol, a leading worldwide medical device company dedicated to the science of cardiovascular intervention. Dr. Berger began his career in academic medicine at Yale School of Medicine and Emory School of Medicine, rising to professor with tenure. He received his M.D. from Yale School of Medicine and his B.S. from Colgate University and completed post-graduate training at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
In the past several years, Dr. Berger has devoted his efforts to supporting several not-for-profit organizations, including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, whose mission is to defy cancer, as a governing trustee, chair of the trustee science committee, and a member of the executive committee, and The Cameron Boyce Foundation in Los Angeles, whose mission is to cure epilepsy, as a member of the board of directors.
The Kojin founding team brings together leadership in chemical biology, genetics, immunology, cancer therapeutics, and drug discovery and development, and includes:
- Stuart Schreiber, Ph.D., Morris Loeb Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Emeritus, Harvard University; founding core institute member emeritus, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; and recipient of the Wolf Prize in Chemistry;
- Benjamin Cravett, Ph.D., Norton B. Gilula Chair of Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, and recipient of the Wolf Prize in Chemistry;
- Stephanie Dougan, Ph.D., associate professor of immunology, Harvard Medical School and principal investigator, cancer immunology and virology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and
- Vasanthi Viswanathan, Ph.D., head of discovery biology, Kojin (formerly Schreiber Lab at The Broad Institute).
Kojin’s current investor syndicate includes Cathay Health, Polaris Partners, Newpath Partners, Leaps by Bayer, AbbVie Ventures, Dana Farber’s Binney Street Capital, Eventide Life Sciences Fund, and Alexandria Venture Investments.
Ferroptosis is a newly discovered form of programmed cell death that is biochemically and genetically differentiated from apoptosis, necrosis, and autophagy and is characterized by intra-cellular localization of iron and reactive oxygen species. This leads to iron-dependent accumulation of oxidatively damaged phospholipids within the cell membrane – a process that has been likened to a “grease fire” in the cell membrane, and which can be prevented or reversed by therapeutic interventions.
Based in Boston, Massachusetts and named after the Japanese deity that tamed fire for the good of humanity, Kojin is harnessing groundbreaking discoveries in cell-state and ferroptosis biology to develop first-in-class treatments for use in patients with cancer, and cardiovascular, immunologic, and degenerative diseases. Kojin has developed a drug-discovery platform that integrates computational chemistry, structural biology, chemical biology, target-informed screening, and mechanism-driven pharmacology to discover therapeutics that specifically modulate ferroptosis.
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