SQZ Biotechnologies Announces Strategic Prioritization of SQZ Enhanced Antigen Presenting Cells Program; Armon Sharei to Step Down as Chief Executive Officer
SQZ Biotechnologies (NYSE: SQZ) today announced the strategic prioritization of its clinical portfolio to concentrate on the development of its second-generation enhanced Antigen Presenting Cells (eAPC) cell therapy program, focused on HPV16 positive recurrent, locally advanced, or metastatic solid tumors.
In connection with the prioritization decision, the company announced that Armon Sharei, PhD, Chief Executive Officer at SQZ Biotechnologies, will step down from his role as CEO and the Board of Directors, effective immediately. The Board has appointed Howard Bernstein, MD, PhD, former Chief Scientific Officer and current director, as Interim Chief Executive Officer. Dr. Bernstein, along with Chief Medical Officer, Marshelle Smith Warren, MD, will oversee the advancement of the eAPC program and clinical trial.
“The Board and I would like to sincerely thank Armon for his vision and leadership at SQZ over the past decade and his willingness to remain available to advise the company and the Board,” said Bernard Coulie, MD, PhD, Chairman of the Board at SQZ Biotechnologies. “As we move into our next chapter, I have great confidence in the company’s ability to bring the eAPC program to clinical readout next year and am excited to explore the program’s full potential. The company will benefit from having a highly-experienced leader in drug development, like Howard, step in at this critical time. His deep institutional knowledge of SQZ from his time as Chief Scientific Officer and director will help the company realize the potential opportunity of the eAPC cell therapy program.”
“As we navigate an unprecedented operating environment, we plan to be disciplined with our capital and pursue opportunities where we see great potential promise,” said Howard Bernstein, MD, PhD, Interim Chief Executive Officer at SQZ Biotechnologies. “We have made the strategic decision to focus our efforts on advancing our eAPC clinical candidate with the aim of reaching a Phase 1/2 data readout for our highest-dose monotherapy cohort by the middle of next year.”
The company will transition its first-generation Antigen Presenting Cells (APC) therapy to its second-generation enhanced Antigen Presenting Cells therapy and has initiated switching select APC sites to the eAPC clinical trial. At European Society of Medical Oncology—Immuno-Oncology (ESMO-IO) Congress 2022, the company will present the latest clinical data from the company’s Antigen Presenting Cells (APC) program clinical candidate, SQZ-PBMC-HPV, including high dose monotherapy and combination therapy. The company will also present initial cohort 1 data from its ongoing COMMANDER-001 Phase 1/2 (SQZ-eAPC-HPV) trial at ESMO-IO.