Wednesday, June 12, 2024

New Orleans biotech firm AxoSim hires new CEO ahead of major fund raising

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AxoSim, a New Orleans-based life sciences company, said Tuesday that founder Lowry Curley will step down as CEO to make way for a new leader as the company prepares for a major capital raising later this year.

The new CEO, Alif Saleh, comes to the job from Boston-based Scipher Medicine, which specializes in immunology technology, where he was CEO for the past eight years. He has previous experience running divisions for major biotech companies in Asia.

Curley, who co-founded the firm 10 years ago, will step down as CEO and assume the new role of chief scientific officer.

“A lot of this is me getting back to my roots,” Curley said in a phone interview.

Lowry Curley, CEO of New Orleans Biotech firm AxoSim, will swap roles and become chief scientific officer after the company hired Alif Saleh to be new CEO. The move comes ahead of AxoSim’s effort to raise more capital for growth.

AxoSim’s initial technology was based on graduate research Curley did at Tulane University. The company’s products allow pharmaceutical companies to conduct non-animal neurological testing using stem cells developed in the laboratory, which it calls a “brain-on-a-chip” platform.

In October, AxoSim completed its first major acquisition, buying Vyant Bio’s Minneapolis-based StemoniX subsidiary for an undisclosed amount. The purchase will add StemoniX’s drug-testing platform and 14,000 square feet of additional research, development and manufacturing space.

“The acquisition started me thinking, ‘how do I best leverage my strengths now that we have three product lines?'” Curley said. “With a big funding round coming in the fall, we wanted someone who had done that before, who could be sure to get the money we need. Also, the new CEO has built the kind of sales organization we need.”

He said they haven’t decided yet how much they will try to raise this year but it will be in the “eight figures,” and will be used for expansion.

AxoSim’s primary area of product development has been in degenerative neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The acquisition brought it into areas that include epilepsy and seizures.

Braced for growth

Curley has said that AxoSim and its area of research is at a pivotal time after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration passed the Modernization Act 2.0 last December.

The new rules essentially open up the possibilities for large drug companies to get their products to market using non-animal testing.

Curley said he expects companies like Roche, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca to ramp up their use of non-animal testing by contracting external companies or acquiring them over the next few years.

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