NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SmartZyme BioPharma, Inc. today announces the broadening and strengthening of its leadership team with the appointments of Mark Leavitt, Ph.D. to vice president of research and development and chief technology officer, and Christopher R. Shepard, Ph.D. to senior vice president of business and portfolio development.
Shilo Ben Zeev, SmartZyme’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said, "Dr. Leavitt is one of the best minds in the business of drug development and has world-class experience in building and leading talented R&D organizations. Dr. Shepard brings a wealth of drug development experience to the SmartZyme team and a passion to help patients. His leadership will be instrumental in expanding and advancing our pipeline as SmartZyme moves new and existing compounds forward along the commercialization pathway. These two hires will serve as critical underpinnings for SmartZyme’s growth across many vital functions and drug programs. I’m very happy we were able to bring such talented and experienced professionals into the company and gratified that they have agreed to join the company.”
Mark Leavitt, Ph.D.
Dr. Leavitt has more than 20 years of expertise leading drug discovery and development teams that have driven multiple biotherapeutic programs from early stage through to clinical studies, with particular focus on enzyme replacement therapies for the treatment of metabolic disorders.
Most recently, from 2001 through 2017, Dr. Leavitt held positions of increasing responsibility, including executive director of research and vice president of expression and bioanalytics at Synageva BioPharma and at Alexion Pharmaceuticals following Alexion’s acquisition of Synageva. While at Synageva, he managed the development of several biotherapeutic drugs, including enzyme therapy Kanuma®.
Previous to Alexion, Dr. Leavitt worked in the areas of anti-viral therapeutics and gene therapy at Pfizer and University of California at San Diego. He holds Ph.D. and B.S. degrees from the University of Arizona.
“I am delighted to be joining Smartzyme BioPharma and am looking forward to helping to advance Smartzyme’s technologies rapidly into the clinical setting. I believe the company’s advanced protein engineering technologies will serve an important role in addressing unmet or underserved medical needs and am looking forward to working with the team to move these technologies forward toward the development of new, innovative applications,” said Dr. Leavitt.
Christopher Shepard, Ph.D.
Dr. Shepard began his career in 2002 at Genentech working on the team that developed Herceptin® (trastuzumab). Since that time, he has worked with research and development teams at Astellas, Celgene, and Merck in the areas of oncology and metabolism. Most notably, he contributed to the strategy of Merck’s 30,000 subject REVEAL study testing the cholesteryl ester transfer protein-(CETP)inhibitor anacetrapib, which significantly reduced major coronary events in a recently-reported Phase 3 study.
Prior to joining SmartZyme, Dr. Shepard was founder and head of development at Structured BioEquity (SBE), where he directed several ongoing drug programs from concept to protocol. He is an organizer for the upcoming Keystone Symposium for Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). Dr. Shepard holds a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Pathology from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a B.Sc. from Wake Forest University. Additionally, Dr. Shepard holds an M.B.A. from Carnegie Mellon University.
"I’m incredibly excited to join SmartZyme at such an important time for the company," said Dr. Shepard. “SmartZyme’s technology platform will allow us to tackle the most formidable modern challenges in therapeutic protein biochemistry as well as different challenging modalities such as mRNA therapy. Patients are waiting for these therapies, and we will deliver.”
SmartZyme BioPharma, Inc. is a New York-based OrbiMed portfolio company that specializes in researching and developing optimized protein, enzyme, and mRNA therapeutics through directed evolution. SmartZyme’s current portfolio includes a next-generation, ultra-accurate, glucose-sensing enzyme that undergoes direct-electron transfer which has been integrated into a sensor for use in continuous glucose monitors (CGM); and a next-generation recombinant Factor VIIa protein for acute bleeding episodes. Smartzyme is currently evaluating other potential innovative drug programs for global development.