Biogen hires Grogan as R&D head, aims to boost innovation and agility

Biogen, Graphite Bio, Arsenal Biosciences, Genentech

Dr. Jane Grogan, who recently assumed her role as the head of research at Biogen, is eager to bring the dynamic and focused approach of the biotech industry to the company’s research endeavors. Grogan, formerly the Chief Scientific Officer of ArsenalBio and Graphite Bio, officially joined Biogen on October 2. Her initial days at the company have been spent familiarizing herself with the team and ongoing projects. However, amid Biogen’s substantial organizational changes, including workforce reductions of approximately 1,000 employees, the rapid realignment of scientific priorities is a top priority.

Grogan emphasized her experience as CSO at startups, highlighting the importance of being resourceful, maintaining focus, and fostering talented teams while mentoring scientists. She expressed her intent to evaluate all modalities within Biogen’s research portfolio and to take a fresh look at the preclinical pipeline.

Although Grogan recognizes vast opportunities, her approach aligns with the tightly-focused strategy set by the new CEO, Chris Viehbacher. For instance, Grogan mentioned gene editing, a focus of her previous role at Graphite, as an area where Biogen may explore different editing modalities once delivery technology matures. She also expressed interest in cell therapies, especially as they evolve beyond cancer treatment, citing Bayer-owned BlueRock’s Parkinson’s cell therapy as a notable development.

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While there is growing interest and investment in psychedelics research, Grogan indicated that Biogen’s current focus is primarily on neuropsychiatry, with no active pursuit of psychedelics research at this time.

Immunology remains a top priority for Biogen, particularly in identifying targets that could have broad applications in treating various diseases, potentially including multiple sclerosis.

Grogan’s arrival at Biogen followed the completion of the company’s $7.3 billion acquisition of Reata Pharmaceuticals, adding the FDA-approved Friedreich’s ataxia treatment Skyclarys to its portfolio. Grogan is currently evaluating Reata’s clinical portfolio and did not commit to the inclusion of the other three prospects from the acquisition, including cemdomespib, which recently initiated a phase 2 trial for diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain.

As Biogen seeks to boost morale after a period of layoffs and restructuring, Grogan aims to infuse a startup-like enthusiasm into the research team. She emphasizes the importance of motivating scientists to embrace the iterative process of discovery and experimentation, fostering a culture of continuous learning and scientific breakthroughs.

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