They are industry leaders that capture the attention and confidence of the Canadian biotech investment community.
They represent some of the best and brightest Chief Executive Officers on the Canadian biotech scene and the who’s who of the industry. With the help of some leading Canadian biotech analysts and investors, we’ve put together this list of who we think the Top 5 Canadian CEOs that elevate their companies are.
The criteria for making the list: They are CEOs who have delivered in the past and are with companies where they have a chance of delivering in the future. Moreover, they aren’t necessarily leading the best companies, but rather, they qualify because they are the best leaders.
The TOP 5
Ali Tehrani Founder |CEO and President | Zymeworks
It should surprise no one that Dr. Ali Tehrani was a unanimous choice to appear on this list. In just 13 years, he has turned Zymeworks into one of the most talked about companies in the sector. As Tehrani puts it, ‘We’ve gone from geek to sheik.’ It starts with the man at the top, coupled with the company’s two most successful platform technologies, Azymetric™ and Effect™. Both technologies have drawn significant interest from big pharma companies, with Zymeworks signing collaborative deals with Eli Lilly, Merck; and big biotech Celgene for use of the Azymetric platform in the development of bispecific antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates. Additionally, GSK is using the Effect™ platform to enable its own regular mono-specific antibodies to better recruit immune cells for the destruction of disease cells. On top of these marquee partnerships, Zymeworks has also completed several multi-million dollar rounds of financing, licensed new technologies, while continuing to strengthen its own R&D capabilities. It’s not just its strategic investments, acquisitions, mergers, and licensing deals that have people talking. Zymeworks has been growing fast and furious both in terms of its internal activities and its staff.
Clarissa Desjardins |Founder and CEO | Clementia
Dr. Clarissa Desjardins founded Clementia in 2011 and has served as the company’s chief executive officer ever since. Her company is rapidly developing its lead product candidate, palovarotene, as an oral therapy for fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), an extremely rare and disabling genetic disease of the connective tissues. The drug is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials. Moreover, just last year she led an oversubscribed $60 million mezzanine financing round, which is a very good indication that investors are very confident in not just Clementia, but Clarissa as well. Prior to Clementia, she founded two other successful biotech companies, including Advanced Bioconcept, a research reagent and diagnostics company sold to NEN Life Sciences (Perkin Elmer) in 1998, and Caprion Pharmaceuticals (now Thallion), a biotechnology company focused on proteomic biomarker discovery and drug development.
Simon Pimstone |Founder, CEO | Xenon
Dr. Simon Pimstone is the long-time CEO of Xenon, a company focused on discovering therapies using an informatics approach. While a long time in the making (the company was founded in 1996, and he stepped into the role of CEO in 2003), under his watch Xenon has over the last several years been able to forge excellent partnerships with such big pharma companies as Teva, Merck and Genentech (Roche). Xenon also has a pipeline of its own products in clinical trials. Moreover, the company’s platform technology was used to develop uniQure’s Glybera treatment for the orphan disease lipoprotein lipase deficiency, the first gene therapy approved in the EU. For these reasons, Dr. Pimstone is regarded as one of the top CEO’s on Canada’s west coast.
David Main |Founder, President & CEO |Aquinox Pharma
David Main is a co-founder, president and CEO of Aquinox Pharma, a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company discovering and developing novel drug candidates to treat inflammation and cancer. He has overseen the advancement of the company’s lead product, AQX-1125, from being a target validation program to now entering Phase 3 studies. During this time he has also been responsible for the transition of Aquinox from a private company to a NASDAQ-listed public company following its IPO (a rarity for Canadian biotech), while raising over US$200 million. In addition to his position at Aquinox, he plays a key leadership role on Canadian biotech scene as the current chair of BIOTECanada and as a director with the Bio Organization.
Anthony Cheung |President & CEO | Engene Inc.
It’s been five years since Dr. Anthony Cheung stepped into the position of CEO of the Montreal- based company he founded (serving as its chief scientific officer prior to that), and he has notched a few victories on his belt in a short period of time. Among his major accomplishments, he’s led a $13.5M Series B financing while increasing his company’s deal flow through two major pharma partnerships, one with Japanese pharma company Takeda, the other with industry heavyweight Johnson & Johnson. Much of the partnership interest is focused on the company’s discovery and development of a unique gene delivery formulation or “Gene Pill”, which has the potential to be a platform for oral delivery of a wide range of protein drugs.
Perhaps one the most interesting aspects of our selections was that there were so many outstanding CEOs to choose from. In fact, there were many beyond the TOP 5 that also received multiple votes and narrowly missed the cut. We’ve included them in the Honourable mention list below:
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