Juno Therapeutics announced Monday that a former Genentech executive, Dr. Sunil Agarwal, has joined the company as its new President of Research and Development — part of a new office for the Seattle-based biotech company in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The news was originally reported by biotech site Endpoints News, based on an internal memo from Juno CEO Hans Bishop to the company’s employees. In the memo, Bishop likens the office to the company’s existing locations in Boston and Germany.
A Juno spokesperson confirmed the planned office to GeekWire and said the company’s headquarters and the bulk of its work will remain in Seattle. Read an excerpt of the memo below:
Based on the very positive clinical data associated with JCAR014, JCAR017 and BCMA, Juno has decided to fully invest in JCAR017 and JCAR025 to develop them as quickly as possible. Starting immediately and over the next few years, we will need to significantly ramp up our clinical development capabilities to achieve the quality and speed of execution to be a market leader in the CAR T space and to bring this (sic) innovative products to patients. The competitive landscape is also heating up, so our prioritization and decision making associated with trial execution and pipeline prioritization will need to be enhanced as well.
Similar to our offices in Boston and Germany, the addition of a Bay Area office enables the company to continue our growth trajectory and puts us in the best position to continue to hire world-class talent.
Juno scrapped its lead drug candidate, JCAR015, in March, after its clinical trial had twice been suspended due to patient deaths. That puts Juno behind in the race to have the first CAR T immunotherapy approved by the FDA, a race which it appeared to be winning just a few years ago.
However, some of the company’s most promising candidates are still in early stages of clinical trials and Juno’s leadership has long held that it will be the most effective drug, not the first to market, that will last the test of time.
Agarwal will take over all the company’s reinvigorated R&D efforts and take charge of setting a unified strategy for the drug development and other research. He will split his time between Seattle and San Francisco.