23andMe nabs Silicon Valley exec for new product-focused C-suite role as it looks to expand genetics platform and advance drug pipeline
Who: Daniel Chu, former executive at the autonomous driving technology company Waymo, joined 23andMe as chief product officer late last month.
Background: With a background steeped in the software development and transportation industries, upon first glance Chu appears an unlikely fit for the role at 23andMe. He began his career as a software engineer at several Silicon Valley startups before eventually landing a role as product manager for Google Hangouts, and later Google Maps. But Chu possesses a wealth of experience overseeing all aspects of product management, including user experience, design and data strategies. Prior to joining 23andMe, he served for eight years as chief product officer of the Alphabet subsidiary — Waymo, formerly called the Google self-driving project — where he moved the idea of a fully autonomous vehicle from concept to reality with the launch of the company’s self-driving taxi fleet in Phoenix, Ariz.
Why it matters: Chu’s ability to take a visionary idea to the finish line with practical expertise will prove important in his new role as 23andMe looks to create new consumer experiences with its genetics platform, while continuing to expand and advance its drug development pipeline.
During an earnings call this summer CEO Anne Wojcicki noted interest in expanding 23andMe’s consumer offerings further into the healthcare realm.
“We see real interest in the transition from genetics being associated with ancestry to genetics being associated with health,” she said. “That also then allows us to expand into the telehealth services and providing follow-up in care and guidance, pharmacy services as well as in labs.”
Wojcicki also suggested that the company is assessing new opportunities for its therapeutic group in a “post-GSK world,” when their multi-year drug discovery partnership with the British pharma is set to end in 2023.
Although it remains unclear which side of the business Chu will work more closely with, he’s joining at a time marked by growth and opportunity for the company. He is the second executive to join 23andMe in recent months after Dr. Noura Abul-Husn who came on as vice president of genomic health in July.
Learn more: As part of its partnership with GSK, 23andMe has more than 40 drug discovery programs already underway and at the beginning of this year launched a phase 1 trial of its first asset, 23ME-00610, for patients with locally advanced or metastatic solid tumors. Read our interview with Dr. Jennifer Low, 23andMe’s head of therapeutic development, about the company’s strategy for future growth.
Moderna’s latest personnel reshuffle signals increased emphasis on partnerships and M&A opportunities
Who: The latest shake-up at the mRNA biotech sees the company’s current chief technical operations and quality officer, Juan Andres, moving to a newly created role as president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion beginning in the new year.
Background: Much like his successor, Andres joined Moderna in 2017 after over a decade at Novartis in manufacturing and supply chain operations. He’s built on those skills over the last five years while managing the Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech’s vaccine production during the COVID-19 pandemic and helped grow its production capabilities. In his new role, Andres will be tasked with fostering fresh collaborations and bolstering the company’s drug pipeline. Meanwhile, Jerh Collins will take up where Andres left off, including by expanding the company’s manufacturing site in its home state and building a new site in Africa with his over three decades of experience in pharma production, manufacturing and operations at Novartis.
Why it matters: The restructuring marks the latest in a series of executive level personnel changes at Moderna over the last few months, most recently including the August announcement of former PerkinElmer exec James Mock as its new chief financial officer. The company is looking to ignite its next stage of growth, according to a statement from CEO Stéphane Bancel, who said during the company’s annual R&D day that Moderna is “preparing for multiple product launches globally.”
Those launches could begin as early as next year, the company announced during the September event, and are likely to include Moderna’s phase 3 vaccine candidates for seasonal flu, which aims to protect against four major strains, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). However, the trials are ongoing and it is unclear when final results for either may be available.
Andres’ leadership will be pivotal in helping steer the company past these launches and into future indication areas. Collins will similarly play an integral role as he’s charged with bringing more manufacturing capabilities in-house as the company expands its global footprint.
Learn more: Although Moderna is looking to a future past COVID-19 with its pipeline, the company is at the same time suing competitors Pfizer and BioNTech over allegations they copied its patented mRNA technology for their own COVID-19 shots.