Juno Looks to Revamp R&D with New Leadership

Looking to revamp its R&D organization, biotech leader Juno Therapeutics has recently hired ex-Genentech scientist Sunil Agarwal as the new president of R&D. Juno has been developing innovative cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer. The company went through a difficult phase last year after U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed a clinical hold on Juno's then-lead candidate, JCAR015 after two patients died in a phase 2 studies.

“Sunil is a strong strategic thinker and experienced drug developer who will be a great addition to our executive team,” said Hans Bishop, President and CEO of Juno. “He has an established track record of bringing innovative therapies to market, demonstrated by the breadth and quality of the programs he has led. His drug development experience, instincts, and scientific judgment will be important for our next phase of growth, and we will benefit from his experience and insight in both our strategy and execution.”

As a key leader for Genentech, Agarwal used to oversee global development programs in these areas from proof of concept (PoC) and was also a member of both the Genentech Research and Early Development (gRED) and Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED) committees. He made a name for himself by successfully building large global development organizations and strengthend the company’s presence in multiple geographies.

“Transforming innovative science into meaningful medicines for patients and building strong organizations fits very well with my passion, experience, and expertise,” said Dr. Agarwal. “Engineered cell and gene therapies have the potential to transform the landscape of medicine over the coming decade, and Juno is well positioned to be a leader in this era. I am delighted to join Juno at this exciting time for the company, and I look forward to partnering with the team on executing Juno’s vision.”

Last year, Juno decided to put its experiments with JCAR015 on hold after the sudden death of two patients. A few days later, the clinical hold was lifted by the FDA, but the results only got worse. This time, the use of the drug led to the death of one more patient. Due to these setbacks, the company came out with a statement that it was stopping the use of JCAR015 permanently.