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AbbVie infectious disease exec jumps ship to COVID antiviral biotech

AbbVie and Roche alum Janet Hammond, M.D., Ph.D., Sc.M., F.C.P. has nabbed the chief development officer role at infectious disease biotech Atea Pharmaceuticals.

The Boston-based private biotech landed a huge $215 million series D financing round in March, which it is using toward a phase 2 trial of its oral purine nucleotide prodrug in people hospitalized with moderate cases of COVID-19.

That med, AT-527, works as a highly selective, orally administered direct acting antiviral, and is designed to inhibit the RNA polymerase enzyme, a key element in the replication machinery of RNA viruses. It’s hoped it can help beat out SARS-CoV-02, the virus causing COVID-19.

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It’s also working on early programs for Dengue, RSV and Hepatitis C, although some trials have been delayed by the pandemic.

As CDO, a newly-created position for the biotech, Hammond will be responsible for overseeing Atea’s clinical development programs, and specifically spearheading its development of AT-527 for the treatment of COVID-19.

She joins from AbbVie, where she was most recently its VP and therapeutic area head for general medicine and infectious disease development. She also served a stints at Roche, Valeant, GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol Myers Squibb.

AbbVie has also been in the COVID development race, with its repurposed HIV med Kaletra having been in trials for certain COVID-19 patients, although it came up short in helping in a test published in the summer.

In June, it teamed up with cancer and inflammation biotech Harbour BioMed, fresh off a $75 million raise, alongside Utrecht University (UU) and Erasmus Medical Center (EMC); the newly aligned foursome will work together to develop a new antibody both prevent and treat COVID-19.

Hammond will now no longer be at the Big Pharma to help with this, instead betting on a smaller biotech for this COVID work.  

“We are delighted to welcome Janet to the Atea leadership team and are confident that her considerable expertise in virology and antiviral therapeutics will enhance our development programs,” said Jean-Pierre Sommadossi, Ph.D., founder, chairman and CEO of Atea.

“Janet has extensive experience with infectious and respiratory diseases, which should be invaluable to Atea as we move to expedite our clinical studies of AT-527 as a treatment for COVID-19.”

“I am excited to be joining Atea as together we work to advance a pipeline of versatile antivirals to fight deadly diseases. In particular, we are driven to focus on providing a new treatment for COVID-19 where there is an immediate and unmet medical need,” added Hammond.


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