Wren* Taps Vertex Veteran Executives and Other Leaders to Advance First-in-Class Small-Molecule Drugs into Clinical Testing for Neurodegenerative Diseases

— Executive leaders in R&D management, medicinal chemistry, technical operations, and translational biology to lead build-out of discovery platform and pipeline —

BOSTON, Mass., December 8, 2022— Wren Therapeutics announced today a number of senior leadership appointments as the company advances its first investigational therapies toward the clinic, based on the company’s breakthrough approach to discovering small molecules that precisely target and shut down the sources of oligomer and aggregate generation in neurodegenerative diseases.

The company recently welcomed Vertex Pharmaceuticals veterans John Thomson, PhD and Patrick Connelly, PhD as its Chief Scientific Officer and first Chief Innovation Officer, respectively. Dr. Thomson and Dr. Connelly are Vertex founding scientists who worked together on leadership teams that discovered and developed Vertex’s seven FDA-approved drugs.

In addition to Drs. Thomson and Connelly, new appointments to Wren’s leadership team include:

  • Mike Dey, PhD: Head of Manufacturing and Technical Operations
  • Janeta Popovici-Muller, PhD: Head Drug Design and Advancement
  • Rajeev Sivasankaran, PhD: Head Translational Development

“It is often said that drug discovery and development is the ultimate team sport—it takes a great many people with immense talent, dedication, and focus working together on breakthrough science,” said Bart Henderson, CEO of Wren. “We couldn’t be more pleased to welcome John, Pat, Mike, Janeta, and Rajeev to Wren’s team—all proven executives in their fields. With this lineup of experienced talent, Wren has the leadership team to break open the field of neurodegenerative diseases targeting the molecular mechanisms at the source of toxic oligomer generation.”

John Thomson, PhD | Chief Scientific Officer
Dr. Thomson was formerly Head of Research for Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ USA-based research operations, a company he helped to build from the ground up. During his 25-year tenure, he was involved with all Vertex research programs spanning antivirals and anti-infectives, immunoregulation, inflammation, neurological dysfunction, cystic fibrosis, and oncology research. He headed the Hepatitis C project that yielded INCIVEK® (telaprevir) and contributed to the discovery and selection of more than 40 development candidates—many first-in-class, and of which six were eventually approved as drugs.

Patrick Connelly, PhD | Chief Innovation Officer
Dr. Connelly is a biophysics expert who created and led a number of specialized R&D business units at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, where he was a founding scientist and former employee. He established the unique Materials Discovery & Characterization development function at Vertex, where he, his staff, and colleagues co-invented three first-in-class medicines—INCIVEK® for hepatitis C, and KALYDECO® and ORKAMBI® for cystic fibrosis. Dr. Connelly also co-founded and led Vertex’s Corporate Innovation unit that catalyzed the company’s entry into sickle cell disease and was a member of the Vertex-CRISPR Therapeutics Joint Research Committee that brought forth Exa-cel, one of the first gene-editing medicines to be tested in humans, currently in Phase 3 clinical trials.

Mike Dey, PhD | Head of Manufacturing and Technical Operations
Dr. Dey’s extensive experience in drug development, industrialization, and manufacturing encompasses more than 40 NDA/BLA approvals. Previous to joining Wren, Dr. Dey was Vice President, Pharmaceutical Development and Vice President, Endocrinology Strategy team at Ipsen, where he supported Somatuline in becoming a $1 billion product as well as out-licensing partnerships on early products that are now approved life-changing therapies. He held senior manufacturing and R&D positions at Aventis (now Sanofi) in various mergers for which he led integration of industrialization and R&D teams to accelerate new products. He has developed novel equipment and built facilities in the U.S., EU, and Asia to secure supply from earliest clinical trials to global launches. He is an inventor of multiple formulation and drug delivery patents supporting several approved products.

Janeta Popovici-Muller, PhD | Head of Drug Design & Advancement
Dr. Popovici-Muller has more than 20 years of experience in early and late-stage drug discovery. She was a founding employee and Senior Vice President, Head of Drug Discovery at Rectify Pharmaceuticals and served as Vice President, Head of Chemistry at Decibel Therapeutics. Dr. Popovici-Muller co-led drug discovery programs at Agios Pharmaceuticals that delivered clinical-stage molecules in the areas of cancer metabolism (co-inventor of Tibsovo®) and rare genetic metabolic disorders (Pyrukynd®). Preceding her tenure at Agios, Dr. Popovici-Muller spent 10 years at Merck Research Labs in Cambridge, MA (through merger with Schering-Plough) focused on small-molecule drug discovery in oncology, inflammation, and anti-viral therapeutic areas.

Rajeev Sivasankaran | [Head of Translational Development
Dr. Sivasankaran joined Wren as Head of Translational Development after an 18-year tenure at the Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research (NIBR) leading drug discovery programs ranging from small molecules to gene therapy—from early ideation to human clinical trials—most recently as Executive Director and Head of Rare Diseases in the Neuroscience Division. His group initiated and advanced drug discovery programs focused on a broad range of monogenic neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental diseases including spinal muscular atrophy, Huntington’s disease, Friedreich’s ataxia, and autism spectrum disorders.

About Wren Therapeutics
Wren is a biopharmaceutical company transforming drug discovery for neurodegenerative diseases, targeting the fleeting protein intermediates central to many disease pathways that are beyond the reach of conventional drug discovery approaches. We have built a unique drug discovery platform to assay and target the transient protein intermediates—the oligomers—in these disease pathways, to interrupt the molecular mechanisms that are the source of oligomer generation with small-molecule therapeutics. We are focusing this platform first on some of the greatest unmet medical needs of our time: Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and ALS. For more information, please visit: www.wrentherapeutics.com.

Mary Moynihan
M2Friend Biocommunications
+1 (802) 951-9600

* Renamed WaveBreak in 2023

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