Jude Samulski turns over AskBio CSO reins to Mansuo Shannon

Gene therapy legend R. Jude Samulski, Ph.D., co-founder and chief scientific officer of Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (AskBio) since the company was established in 2001, is leaving the CSO job but remaining on the company board.

AskBio announced that Mansuo Shannon, Ph.D., becomes CSO effective today. Shannon joins AskBio from Prevail Therapeutics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company, where she also served as CSO.

AskBio became a wholly owned and independently operated subsidiary of Bayer AG after the German pharmaceutical giant’s $4 billion purchase of the pioneering gene therapy company in late 2020. At the time, AskBio had spun off numerous other companies as it persevered through challenges throughout the gene therapy world to become a global leader of the industry with nearly 1,000 employees in the U.S. and abroad.

Jude Samulski
Jude Samulski steps down as CSO of AskBio but remains on the board.

Samulski has been honored around the world for his work in engineered recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors, which can transport gene therapies into cells to treat various diseases. He began his research in AAV some 45 years ago as a graduate student at the University of Florida. There, he cloned and rescued AAV from plasmid in human cells, which laid the groundwork for various innovations in the gene therapy space. Today, he holds some 500 AAV-related technology patents and has helped advance therapies for numerous genetic disorders including hemophilia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and congestive heart failure.

Early work by Samulski at AskBio and related entities was supported by grants and loans from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center totaling about $1 million. The support included a $250,000 grant to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that helped recruit Samulski, the first scientist to clone AAV, from the University of Pittsburgh in 1993. He served as the director of UNC’s Gene Therapy Center for 25 years.

“When UNC recruited Jude he was a highly promising researcher at the advent of a new therapeutic approach (gene therapy) that was equal parts futuristic and misunderstood,” said Rob Lindberg, Ph.D., vice president of Science & Technology Development for NCBiotech. “Over his illustrious career as the pre-eminent scientific thought leader in AAV-mediated gene delivery, he has brought immeasurable recognition (and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to date) to NC as a gene therapy powerhouse. Moreover, his work is impacting increasing numbers of children suffering from debilitating rare diseases. We are grateful to Jude for serving as a generous advocate for the state and NCBiotech, and are proud to have supported his initial recruitment, research, and many startup companies formed to advance his vision to the clinic.”

Samulski’s AskBio co-founder and CEO Sheila Mikhail retired from her role a year ago, and, like Samulski, remains active in philanthropic and health advocacy work.

AskBIo's Mansuo Shannon
AskBio's new CSO, Mansuo Shannon

"Jude and Sheila have always represented the pinnacle of leadership, grit and intelligence in science and business,” said Doug Edgeton, president and CEO of NCBiotech. “They’re still writing their legacy, and there can be no doubt that their contributions to North Carolina’s ascendance in the difficult world of life sciences have been pivotal. Their generosity is manifest in many ways, including Sheila’s ongoing contributions as a member of the NCBiotech Board of Directors."

Gustavo Pesquin replaced Mikhail as AskBio’s CEO. Shannon will report to him as a member of AskBio’s executive leadership team and head its R&D organization.

“We are delighted to welcome Mansuo to the AskBio team,” said Pesquin. “As a seasoned pharmaceutical and biotech executive who has worked across an impressive range of therapeutic modalities, her experience will be invaluable as our company continues to advance as a leader in gene therapy.

“I am confident that Mansuo’s extensive background in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases, in particular, will bring us closer to achieving our strategic vision of creating a new reality for people living with diseases that currently lack effective treatments.”

Shannon has over 16 years of industry experience covering work in small and large molecules, as well as gene therapy, including gene editing. While at Prevail she led the strategy for and executed work on an extensive product portfolio, managing a team of nearly 60 Ph.D. scientists and research associates.

Shannon also spent nearly a decade at Lilly, where she led several programs that aimed to deliver novel disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Before that, she held key scientific roles at Chugai Pharmaceuticals/Roche Group and Merck.

Shannon holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton University, and completed post-doctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Susumu Tonegawa, Ph.D.

As part of her role as CSO at AskBio, Shannon will develop and implement the company’s future R&D strategy. She will lead all aspects of the discovery and development of AskBio’s gene therapy platform and will oversee the global teams charged with advancing that platform.

As an integral member of AskBio’s Executive Leadership Team, Shannon will provide scientific leadership to the CEO, the board of directors, and the company as a whole, in addition to being a key partner of the broader Bayer R&D leadership team and Bayer’s scientific community.

“I am excited to take on the challenge of serving as AskBio’s next CSO,” said Shannon. “I look forward to working with the company’s leadership team and pioneering scientists, as well as colleagues across functions and at Bayer, to advance AskBio’s R&D organization and deliver transformative gene therapies that have the potential to change the course of some of the world’s most devastating diseases.”

Jim Shamp, NCBiotech Writer
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