Life Sciences Insight

Biotech flipper John Edwards joins Verseau as CEO after overseeing Tilos from birth to Merck buy

Tumor-attacking biotech Verseau Therapeutics has named a new CEO with a track record of moving biotechs from startup to M&A exit.

John Edwards, who previously served as executive chair of Tilos Therapeutics, has joined Verseau, which focuses on cancer immunotherapies that reprogram the tumor microenvironment to attack tumors.

Wherever Edwards goes, deals follow. Tilos, of course, was gobbled up by Merck in June 2019—a $773 million acquisition that Edwards oversaw from the start of the anti-LAP antibody biotech to the buy in two years.

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And that’s not the only biotech Edwards has flipped. He was instrumental in building Siamab, which made a $202 million exit in August 2019 through a strategic agreement with an unnamed, large commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company, and Exonics, which was picked up by Vertex Pharmaceuticals in June 2019 for $245 million.

Bristol Myers Squibb has Edwards to thank for Adnexus, the biotech that was nabbed for $430 million in 2007. He served as chief operating officer there. The pharmaceutical giant offloaded some assets from the Adnexus buy to Roche in 2017, collecting $170 million upfront and up to $205 million in milestones for the rights to the Duchenne muscular dystrophy therapy BMS-986089.

After the BMS buyout, Edwards remained on board as president of Adnexus “during the early days of immuno-oncology,” according to a press release.

Edwards also served as executive chairman at F-Star through a deal-heavy period, when the biotech went from discovery stage to a developer of clinical-stage bispecific antibodies. The company brought in $200 million in revenue through business development deals brokered by Edwards.

Verseau is backed by renowned MIT scientist Robert Langer, who co-founded the company and serves on the board.

“John has a proven track record of guiding biotech companies through pivotal growth points during all stages of development, including taking companies from discovery to clinical stage and through newly marketed therapies reaching patients,” Langer said in a statement. “We welcome John to the Verseau team and look forward to benefitting from his experience as the company pursues its mission to develop an important new class of cancer immunotherapies based on macrophage repolarization.”

Edwards also serves as executive chair at Abcuro, which picked up $42 million in a series A financing in January. The funding was co-led by Sanofi Ventures and will fuel development of anti-KLRG1 treatments for autoimmune diseases and cancers.