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New Faces, Big Impact: Meet the Finalists For Xconomy’s Newcomer Award

Xconomy Boston — 

Being a newcomer can mean a few different things: being new to the area (or newly back after being away) or new to an industry. The finalists for Xconomy’s Newcomer Award this year cover these definitions. One is a serial biotech entrepreneur who has now made an impact in multiple cities, most recently Boston. Another has traveled across the country to take a Boston-area biotech to new heights. Read on for details on these and two other nominees below. The winner will be named at a gala on Sept. 5. in Boston.

(Read about the finalists in the CEO, Startup, Digital Trailblazer, Innovation at the Intersection, Big Idea and Contrarian categories, and the winner of our Lifetime Achievement award.)

Gary Glick, IFM Therapeutics
By the time he got to Boston from Ann Arbor, MI, University of Michigan chemistry professor Gary Glick was already a successful biotech entrepreneur. He formed an immunology startup, Lycera, in 2006 and Celgene nabbed an option to acquire it in 2015. Now in Boston, he’s taken far less time to cut his second major deal, and possibly set up his third. Teaming up with Atlas Venture, he raised a $27 million Series A for his next startup, IFM Therapeutics, in June 2016 and a year later sold its cancer drug work to Bristol-Myers Squibb for $300 million up front. Glick’s team then funneled IFM’s remaining assets into a new holding company, IFM Therapeutics LLC, which just raised $31 million for its first subsidiary, IFM Tre, last month. Other units could follow.

Penny Heaton, Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute
Penny Heaton arrived in Boston late last year with an ambitious mandate: to build, from scratch, a nonprofit research group meant to help tackle, even eradicate, some of the world’s most deadly and intractable problems in public health—malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrheal disease. The new Bill and Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute, which Heaton leads as CEO, has been given $273 million to back its first four years of work. The institute’s plan is to take preclinical drug and vaccine candidates from biotechs and academic labs and usher them through to mid-stage clinical trials. At that point, the institute aims to find partners that will finish development, get those drugs to market, and offer them at affordable prices. Heaton is hiring a team of biopharma industry veterans to help her do the job, with the goal of growing the institute to about 120 people over the next three years.

Previously, Heaton spent nearly five years leading the vaccine development division of the Seattle-based Gates Foundation, and had stints at Novartis, Merck, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before that.

Doug Ingram, Sarepta Therapeutics
It hasn’t taken long for Doug Ingram, a former West Coast-based Allergan executive, to make his presence felt in Boston. In June 2017, Ingram stepped in as the CEO of Sarepta Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRPT), the Cambridge, MA, biotech that was just getting ready to market its first drug—eteplirsen (Exondys 51), the Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment that was approved in late 2016 in a controversial FDA decision. Since taking the helm, Ingram has steered Sarepta through a successful early drug launch, gotten a second Duchenne treatment ready for an FDA filing, and cut deals and collaborations for other treatments. Early human data for a Duchenne gene therapy—the first to get this far—have been encouraging as well, and at nearly $125 apiece, Sarepta’s shares are worth almost four times their value when Ingram arrived last year.

Bill Haney, Dragonfly Therapeutics and Skyhawk Therapeutics
Bill Haney isn’t new to Boston, but the tech entrepreneur, investor and filmmaker is new to biotech, and in a short time has already made his mark on the startup ecosystem. Since 2016, Haney has co-founded two biotechs—Dragonfly Therapeutics and Skyhawk Therapeutics—that are each charting unusual courses. Typically, venture firms fund biotech startups in exchange for preferred stock. Haney has instead stitched together consortia of family offices (like that of the Disney family) to fund Dragonfly and Skyhawk, with the investors and employees all getting common stock. That has enabled Haney, CEO of both companies, and his co-founders to keep control of the companies and get an unusually long financial runway for such early stage firms. And for both companies, that runway got longer soon after their formation—they each cut lucrative deals with Celgene.

Corie Lok contributed to this article.

This is the seventh article profiling the finalists of the 2018 Xconomy Awards. Read profiles of the finalists in the CEO, Startup, Digital Trailblazer, Innovation at the Intersection, Big Idea and Contrarian categories, and the winner of our Lifetime Achievement award.