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Novartis’ US Oncology head makes leap to become biotech CEO

Published on: 05/06/18

The departure of high-level, big pharma executives to tiny biotechs is steadily becoming a constant stream; the latest is Bill Hinshaw, former Executive Vice President of US Oncology at Novartis, who exits the company to head to Axcella Health, becoming its CEO.

Hinshaw has worked for a number of years at Novartis, joining back in 2003, and now teaming up again with David Epstein, who became Chairman at the biotech at the beginning of this year after also holding a high-level position at Novartis.

Axcella, itself, is focused on developing medicines to combat “metabolic dysregulation by safely reprogramming cellular physiology”. The biotech’s website claims that metabolism is one of the main causes of a number of diseases and its pipeline indicates a focus on muscle, liver and CNS disorders.

“I was drawn to Axcella by the importance and fundamental nature of their science, and the potential of their platform to transform patients’ lives. I am thrilled to join the company at this critical stage and look forward to leading the organization with passion and purpose into its next phase of growth,” said Hinshaw.

Hinshaw replaces Bob Connelly, a Venture Partner at Flagship Pioneering – a venture capital company that also counts Epstein amongst its employees, as Executive Partner.

“Bill joins Axcella’s leadership team at a key inflection point in the company’s strategic and clinical evolution with a proven track record of overseeing the successful clinical development and commercialization of numerous therapeutic franchises across multiple geographies,” said David Epstein, Chairman of the Axcella Board of Directors and Executive Partner of Flagship Pioneering. “Axcella has made substantial progress in 2018 as we continue advancing our proprietary platform and expanding our pipeline of novel metabolic modulators. We are excited to have Bill on board to lead the company through its next phase. I want to thank Bob Connelly whose leadership and dedication over the last five years have put Axcella on our current growth trajectory.”

For Axcella, it’s still very early days, without a candidate in the clinic; however, the appeal in working for a lean, small biotech was obviously to draw two former executives at Novartis. It will mark a major shift in scale for Hinshaw, who was responsible for more than $6 billion in revenue through Novartis’ US oncology unit.

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