Former Zavante Executive Tapped as Abide Therapeutics President

Xconomy San Diego — 

Abide Therapeutics, which is developing medicines to treat neurological diseases, has appointed Kevin Finney as its president and chief operating officer, a new role for the company.

The company, which has about 40 employees, is co-located in San Diego, where the majority of its workers are based, and Princeton, NJ.

Abide’s drug candidates, small-molecule inhibitors, are targeting an enzyme, monoacylglycerol lipase (MGLL), which affects how neurons communicate. Its lead drug candidate, ABX-1431, is being tested as a treatment for Tourette syndrome and neuropathic pain. Abide also has two other MGLL inhibitors, both in the pre-clinical stage, and is evaluating other targets as potential treatment for diseases including nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.

Finney was most recently COO at Zavante Therapeutics, another San Diego biotech, which was acquired by Ireland’s Nabriva Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NBRV) in July. Nabriva snapped up Zavante for its lead drug candidate, an injectable form of an antibiotic, fosfomycin (Contepo), which had completed Phase 2/3 studies as a treatment for complicated urinary tract infections, some of which are caused by difficult-to-treat multiple drug resistant bacteria.

Prior to his time at Zavante, Finney was a vice president at Dublin-based pharmaceutical giant Allergan (NYSE: AGN), where he headed the company’s strategic corporate development. Finney said in an interview with Xconomy that his experience with Allergan’s botulinum toxin (Botox), best known for smoothing facial wrinkles, but which also serves as a treatment for some movement disorders, piqued his interest in the disease indications that Abide is targeting.

He was also attracted by the company’s assay technology, developed in the Scripps Research lab of Abide co-founder Ben Cravatt, which the biotech deploys to test compounds from its proprietary chemical library of thousands of molecules that have been designed to inhibit a family of enzymes called serine hydrolases (to which MGLL belongs) that perform vital roles in many biological processes.

Previous to Allergan, Finney held commercial management roles at a number of San Diego-area biotech companies, including Prometheus Laboratories, later acquired by Nestlé Health Science, and Amylin Pharmaceuticals, later acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY).

He also worked at the Parke-Davis division of Warner-Lambert, now part of Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), where he launched neurology products including gabapentin (Neurontin), an epilepsy drug.