SQZ Biotech Expands in Massachusetts, Taps New Chief Medical Officer
By Alex Keown
SQZ Biotech is on a roll. Months after securing $72 million in a Series C financing round and expanding a developmental agreement with pharma giant Roche worth up to $1 billion, the company is now expanding its footprint in Watertown, Mass.
SQZ Biotech will lease 63,477 square feet at Arsenal Yards, a 1 million-square-foot mixed-use redevelopment in Watertown, the Boston Business Journal reported. Armon Sharei, SQZ chief executive officer, said the location is ideal for the young company. Being able to stay in Watertown was “win-win for SQZ,” he said, according to the Journal. With the expansion, as well as the potential moving of its lead program into clinical trials with the assistance of Roche, SQZ could be on the verge of a breakout year. The companies aim to use SQZ technology to introduce proteins into a patients’ B-cells in hopes of activating T-cells to fight off cancer.
SQZ technology uses antigen-presenting cells, which are responsible for activating killer T cell responses. In animal testing, SQZ said when the APCs were administered their major histocompatibility complexes presented antigens induce powerful, specific CD8 T cell responses against the antigen of interest. SQZ said those CD8 T cell responses “subsequently drive a strong killing effect against any cell expressing the target antigen.” The bulk of SQZ’s preclinical research has been with HPV positive tumors, particularly those in cervical and head and neck cancers, according to the company’s website.
As the company moves closer to clinical trials, it also announced the appointment of a new chief medical officer. Oliver Rosen, most recently the CMO at Deciphera Pharmaceuticals, was tapped to oversee the clinical development of SQZ’s cell therapy pipeline. Sharei said Rosen’s experience in building clinical pipelines in oncology, as well as lining up with the company’s culture, make Rosen an “excellent leader for our clinical team.”
Rosen said he was excited about joining SQZ at a monumental time of transformation for the company.
SQZ’s differentiated approach has the potential to create powerful cell therapies for patients suffering from cancer and a wide range of devastating diseases. I am looking forward to joining the team and supporting the SQZ commitment to bring these promising cell therapies into the clinic,” Rosen said in a statement.
At Deciphera, Rosen oversaw the development of the company’s lead asset, DCC-2618, a treatment for gastrointestinal tumors. At Deciphera, he guided DCC-2618 from the submission of the Investigational New Drug Application through its second Phase III study. Prior to his time at Deciphera, Rosen held senior medical affairs and clinical development roles at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, The Takeda Oncology Company as well as at Genentech. Rosen has also served as associate director of medical affairs at Amgen, clinical scientist at F. Hoffman-La Roche and global project physician at Merck.