Inspirna Appoints Dr. Usman “Oz” Azam, M.D., as New Chief Executive Officer
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Inspirna, Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing first-in-class cancer therapeutics, announced today the appointment of Dr. Usman “Oz” Azam, M.D., as its new Chief Executive Officer. Masoud Tavazoie, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder of Inspirna, recently stepped down as Chief Executive Officer and Director and will assume a new role as Advisor to provide ongoing support to the Company.
“Leading Inspirna will be an exciting opportunity to develop and commercialize novel drug candidates that target critical molecular drivers of cancer, such as ompenaclid and abequolixron,” said Dr. Azam. “2023 is a compelling year for Inspirna as the company continues to advance its clinical and preclinical pipeline. Inspirna’s proprietary, microRNA-based target discovery platform, RNA-DRIVEr™, has unmatched potential to deliver patient benefit in cancers of high unmet need, and I look forward to providing future updates as we enter our next chapter of growth.”
“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Azam as Inspirna’s new Chief Executive Officer. Oz brings over two decades of drug development experience, serving at the helm of innovative biotechnology companies in recent years. He has also helped bring new drugs to market, most notably during his time as Global Head of Cell and Gene Therapies at Novartis where he helped deliver the first ever FDA approval for a CAR-T cell therapy in hematologic cancers,” said Dieter Weinand, Chairman of the Board. “With his significant expertise in the life sciences industry and proven leadership experience, Oz is uniquely positioned to lead Inspirna as we advance our pipeline candidates. As we welcome Oz, we also would like to thank Masoud for his many years of successful leadership. We wish him well in his next endeavors and look forward to continuing to benefit from his counsel as an advisor to the company.”
Dr. Azam most recently served as Chief Executive Officer of Empyrean Neuroscience, a genetic engineering company advancing a pipeline of neuroactive compounds targeting disorders of the central nervous system, and before that was President and Chief Executive Officer of Tmunity Therapeutics, a biotechnology company developing genetically engineered CAR-T cell therapies for solid tumor applications in cancer. Prior to Tmunity, he served as Global Head of Cell and Gene Therapies at Novartis, where he was responsible for commercial operations, business development licensing, new product commercialization, clinical development, regulatory affairs, and other aspects of the global cell and gene therapies business. Dr. Azam has also held roles as Chief Executive Officer of Novaccel Therapeutics, Chief Medical Officer of Aspreva Pharmaceuticals, and Chief Medical Officer of Ethicon Johnson & Johnson. Earlier in his career, he held positions at Johnson & Johnson, GSK, and Pfizer. Dr. Azam received his M.D. from the University of Liverpool School of Medicine and is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology in the United Kingdom.
Inspirna, Inc., is a privately-held clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of novel cancer drugs that target key pathways in cancers of high unmet need. The company is pursuing several first-in-class drug candidates. Inspirna’s lead drug candidate, ompenaclid (RGX-202), is an orally-administered small molecule that targets the CKB/SLC6A8 pathway. This pathway becomes activated in the tumors of select patients where it enables the generation of the energy molecule ATP in response to tumor hypoxia. Ompenaclid is currently being tested in a Phase 1b/2 clinical trial in combination with standard-of-care FOLFIRI and bevacizumab for the second line treatment of patients with advanced or metastatic RAS mutant colorectal cancer.
Inspirna’s second clinical stage drug candidate, abequolixron (RGX-104), is an oral small molecule activator of LXR/APOE that inhibits angiogenesis and tumor myeloid derived suppressor cells to enhance the immune response against tumors. Abequolixron is currently being tested in a Phase 1b/2 clinical trial in patients with advanced or metastatic lung cancer in combination with docetaxel and endometrial cancer in combination with ipilimumab through a clinical collaboration with Bristol Myers Squibb.
Inspirna identifies novel cancer targets using its microRNA-based target discovery platform, RNA-DRIVEr, which was originally developed by Inspirna’s scientific co-founders at The Rockefeller University and exclusively licensed to Inspirna. The Company brings together distinguished scientific founders, a seasoned board of directors, and a leadership team comprised of experienced drug developers. The Company is funded by leading biotechnology investors, including Novo Holdings A/S, Sofinnova Partners, Sands Capital, Vivo Capital, Lepu Holdings Limited, Sixty Degree Capital, Silicon Valley Bank, K2 HealthVentures, Oceanpine Capital, WuXi PharmaTech Healthcare Fund I, LP, Alexandria Venture Investments, LLC, Dreavent 6, Exor Seeds, and the Partnership Fund for New York City. For more information, please visit www.inspirna.com.