Tony Coles, the biotech veteran who once steered Onyx Pharmaceuticals into a $10 billion buyout, has left one neurology startup to join another.
The appointment marks the latest chief executive gig at a biotech startup for Coles, a longtime life sciences executive who helped restructure NPS Pharmaceuticals—which was eventually acquired by Shire—and led Onyx Pharmaceuticals to a sale to Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) in 2013.
In December 2014, Coles emerged as the CEO (and a founding investor) of Yumanity Therapeutics, a startup developing drugs for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The startup was based on the work of Susan Lindquist, a highly decorated researcher and National Medal of Science winner who founded FoldRx (which was acquired by Pfizer in 2010). Lindquist passed away in 2016, and Coles moved from CEO to executive chairman in July of this year. Richard Peters—like Coles, a former Onyx executive—was named his successor. At the time, Coles said that his plan had always been for Yumanity to “evolve” to a point that he would hand the reins over to someone else to lead “its next phase of growth.”
In Yumanity, Coles took on a company developing drugs from scratch based on yeast experiments. Cerevel is different. The company—like another Bain-Pfizer startup, Springworks Therapeutics—started out with a group of drugs discovered within Pfizer and either near or already in human testing. The drugs were shelved as part of Pfizer’s decision to exit neuroscience research. One drug for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is ready for Phase 3 testing. Another, for epilepsy, is in mid-stage studies. The company plans to start six clinical trials by the end of 2020.