Biogen veteran Linda Burkly is joining Editas Medicine as the gene editing company’s third chief scientific officer in as many years.
Editas on Monday announced Burkly’s appointment as CSO and executive vice president. In that role, she’ll lead the company’s drug discovery work and oversee its development pipeline, which currently includes treatments for genetic blood diseases and certain cancers.
Burkly spent 37 years at Biogen, where she contributed to the development of the multiple sclerosis treatment Tysabri and an experimental lupus medicine dapirolizumab. She led neuroscience-focused research teams at the biotech from 2014 to 2022.
“[Burkly] has an outstanding track record of inventing or contributing to the foundations of multiple approved medicines and late-stage clinical candidates,” Editas CEO Gilmore O’Neill said in a statement.
At Editas, she’ll be tasked with building the pipeline of a company that's been besieged by clinical trial setbacks, research delays and executive turnover.
Though the company was one of the first biotechs formed to use CRISPR gene editing to develop drugs, it struggled to keep pace with its peers. Editas is on its fourth CEO since 2019 and, along the way, has reshuffled its executive suite multiple times. Its last CSO, Mark Shearman, left the company in January when it announced it planned to lay off one-fifth of its workforce.
Burkly is the latest Biogen alumnus to step in, following O’Neill and most recently Chief Medical Officer Baisong Mei. Mei replaced Lisa Michaels, who Editas fired in February 2022.
“With our new strategy and target selection criteria, we have a distinctive opportunity to build the Editas pipeline with a focus on gene editing medicines that will substantially differentiate from the current standard of care,” Burkly said in a statement.
A company spokesperson said Editas had been seeking a new CSO with experience in translational research to help discover and develop new in vivo gene editing therapies.
Under O’Neill, who joined the company in June 2022 after leaving Sarepta Therapeutics, Editas has restructured and trimmed its pipeline, ending plans to develop an eye disease treatment that was once its lead program. It has also sold its cancer cell therapy work to Shoreline Biosciences.
Editas’ lead program is now an experimental treatment in early-stage testing for sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia. It’s also developing cancer medicines with Bristol Myers Squibb and Immatics.
Editas shares fell about 4% Monday morning.