Biotech

23andMe therapeutics leader leaves for board roles at up-and-coming biotechs

23andMe’s chief scientific officer and former therapeutics foreman Richard Scheller has left his hands-on role at the sequencing company and landed on the boards of at least two biotechs—namely, two of the biggest money raisers of the year so far.

At BridgeBio, which recently went public and brought in nearly $350 million with its IPO, Scheller now holds the title of chairman of R&D, a vaguely defined and apparently part-time position.

Meanwhile, the genetics-focused Maze Therapeutics has also claimed him for a seat on its board of directors, following its February premiere with a $191 million series A round. Scheller will continue on as a board member of 23andMe, as well.

According to BridgeBio’s prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company disclosed that Scheller has served as R&D chairman since January and held a seat on the board since the January before that. The company launched in 2015 with plans to oversee a number of genetic disease development programs, spread out across a network of subsidiaries and connected to a centralized research platform.

Additional details on the nature of his work, however, are scant: At the time of this writing there are no official, public releases from either 23andMe or BridgeBio regarding Scheller’s departure or arrival.

In an emailed statement, BridgeBio founder and CEO Neil Kumar described Scheller’s role as that of a scientific adviser who will evaluate the progress of the company’s genetics programs about two-and-a-half days a week.

Before his four-year stint at 23andMe—where he helped establish its in-house drug development program in 2015, which mines its massive genetic database for therapeutic targets—Scheller spent 14 years at Genentech, ultimately as executive vice president of research and early development, and served on the executive committees of Genentech and its Roche parent.

In 2013, he received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for his work exploring the molecular regulators that govern the flow the neurotransmitters, and he received the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience in 2010.

At 23andMe, Scheller’s responsibilities were recently split when he helped recruit former Achaogen CEO Kenneth Hillan earlier this year. Hillan took over as head of therapeutics while Scheller remained CSO until his exit.

A former Genentech veteran himself, Hillan spent 17 years with the Big Biotech, including as senior VP and head of clinical development and product development strategy for the Asia-Pacific region for Roche.

“We know that using genetics as a starting point in drug discovery approximately doubles the probability of creating a successful medicine, and selecting patients based on their personal genetics improves clinical outcomes,” Hillan said in a company blog post last month.

“This is all part of our secret sauce and has never before been done on the scale that we are working on at 23andMe,” he added. Hillan’s team is currently pursuing targets in cancer, plus two non-oncology categories.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with responses from BridgeBio and 23andMe.

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