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Two weeks after receiving a grant worth up to $10 million from the National Institutes of Health, SAGE Therapeutics has a new boss to oversee all that money.
The Cambridge life science company on Wednesday named former Shire Pharmaceuticals executive Jeffrey Jonas its new chief executive. Jonas will lead the company’s effort to develop a drug to treat fragile X syndrome, the project that earned SAGE an NIH award.
Fragile X is a form of autism that causes cognitive and behavioral impairments, and social phobia. Patients often are prescribed drugs for anxiety or Attention Deficit Disorder, but there is no approved therapy targeted specifically at Fragile X.
With the grant, SAGE aims to launch a phase 1 clinical trial of its drug within the next two years.
Jonas said the company’s research “is well positioned to deliver multiple product opportunities over the next several years, and we are now actively engaging industry and academic partners to realize its true potential. I’m thrilled to be part of the team and to be joining at such pivotal time in the company’s evolution.”
Jonas succeeds Kevin Starr, a partner at SAGE investor Third Rock Ventures, who had served as interim chief executive since the company was founded in 2011. SAGE also named Stephen Kanes chief medical officer and Kimi Iguchi chief financial officer.
“The company has made significant progress over the past two years and is now poised to make the transition from a discovery stage to a development- and commercial-stage company,” Starr said. “With the addition of Jeff, Stephen and Kimi, we have the right team in place to advance SAGE’s product strategy and move several programs into late stage development by 2015.”
Jonas, 60, settled an age discrimination lawsuit against Shire last month. The former head of the British drugmaker’s regenerative medicine unit alleged that he was forced out of the position because of his age.
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.