The Norwegian biotech company has announced the appointment of Namir Hassan as chief scientific officer (CSO).
“Namir has gathered extensive scientific knowledge in immunology, and, specifically, T-cell receptor based therapies. His experience spans research through to translational development in biotech and pharma and he has led the growth of research organizations in oncology and infectious diseases. This experience has given him excellent scientific and multi-organizational perspectives,” said Miguel Forte, CEO, Zelluna Immunotherapy. “As a result, Namir will be a great addition to Zelluna’s senior management team, and will contribute excellent ‘field-acquired’ experience and leadership to the development of the Zelluna product portfolio.”
Namir’s key initial responsibilities will be managing and planning the next stages of development for Zelluna’s existing products. This includes Zelluna’s core asset, an exclusive portfolio of tumor specific T cell receptors (TCRs) obtained from cancer patients with remarkable long-term survival following treatment with peptide-based vaccines. Namir will also manage the building of Zelluna’s own research team and facilities. On a longer-term basis, he will lead research activities for the expansion of Zelluna’s portfolio with a focus on adoptive cell therapy for solid cancers.
Namir joins Zelluna from Immunocore where he built and grew the biology, preclinical and biomarker units targeting oncology. He also oversaw early development and the first-in-human trial of a TCR based biologic targeting a melanoma antigen, gp100. Most recently he created and grew the infectious disease unit, including developing the pipeline to helping to secure an investment of up to USD 40M from the Gates foundation. Previously, Namir had a leadership role in the discovery research organization within GSK, and has worked at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. Namir received a DPhil from the University of Oxford in T-cell Biology.
An attractive portfolio
“Adoptive T-cell therapies have moved in recent years from a compelling concept to marketed products demonstrating profound survival benefit for patients with devastating hematological malignancies. However, differentiated lymphocyte targeting approaches are still needed to address the unmet medical need of the more common solid cancers,” said Namir Hassan, CSO, Zelluna. “The portfolio of Zelluna’s TCRs is particularly attractive because of their unique source and that several of them target antigens presented by HLA class II. As a result, I joined Zelluna because I believe these TCRs provide opportunities for driving differentiated therapeutic benefits in patients fighting solid cancers.