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Head of Discovery

Date: Feb 22, 2021

Location: PA, US

Company: Spark Therapeutics


Spark Therapeutics is seeking a highly talented individual to lead its Discovery platform and act as the driver of the innovation engine within Research. A core responsibility of the selected candidate will be to build and provide strategic oversight and leadership to a department entrusted with advancing critical Platforms and Novel Technologies. The Head of Discovery will also partner closely with the Research and Development leadership, and in particular with the Chief Scientific Officer and the Heads of Therapeutic Area at Spark to coordinate efforts around platform optimization applied to the investigational gene therapies in development and platform-enabling research for existing and potential new therapeutic areas. The Head of Discovery will also interact closely with the corporate functions outside R&D and participate in critical strategy and business development activities.


Primary goals for the Head of Discovery  will include:

  • Identify critical areas and develop innovative solutions to address the challenges associated with AAV gene delivery, including vector genome and capsid engineering and optimization
  • Explore novel technologies for the development of gene-based therapeutics
  • Oversee molecular engineering of gene therapeutics and partner with therapeutic area teams to develop highly optimized gene therapeutics
  • Provide strategic oversight on bioinformatics, with the primary goal of leveraging biological data to enable research and platform strategy
  • Partner with Heads of Therapeutic Areas and R&D leadership to strategically direct platform-enabling research
  • Partner with Corporate functions across the organization contributing to critical strategic business decisions, including business development transactions




The Head of Discovery will build and lead a team of highly skilled scientists overseeing the design and execution of studies in-house and lead the partnership with external collaborators and contract research organizations to develop novel gene therapy delivery platforms.


The Head of Discovery will combine strong analytical skills combined with ingenuity, a passion for science and gene therapy as well as a robust background in gene delivery systems (especially, but not only, AAV-based) are required.


The individual will be responsible for the management of an organization in charge of exploratory research as well as research activities in support of existing therapeutic areas.


The ideal candidate will have extensive experience in managing research teams. The candidate will have a track record of being a strategic leader, a mentor, a key stakeholder for senior leaders across complex organizations.

The candidate will be familiar with drug development and have a passion for technology and will be highly familiar with molecular biology, gene therapy and all related disciplines. The Head of Discovery is an established leader, confident, highly creative, energetic, with deep scientific knowledge and able to build highly competitive teams. She/he is an innovator with proven track record of achievements in academia and/or industry.



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Job Function and Description


Build, mentor and strategically lead a diverse team of managers, scientists, bioinformaticians and support roles to create novel opportunities for future expansion of the platform technologies at Spark.

Participate to the definition of the strategy around technology platforms at Spark and ensure departmental goals and objectives are met and aligned to the broader organizational objectives.

Lead the design/development, potentially in collaboration with external partners, of novel tools and technologies that could be applied to optimize and further improve Spark’s gene transfer toolbox.  

Drive innovation across therapeutic areas and platforms at Spark.


Scan the external landscape for opportunities and participate in search and evaluation and business development activities.

Be a key member of due diligence teams


Provide input cross-functionally across R&D and the broader Spark organization and contribute broadly to the Spark portfolio and technology governance


Be a key member of the senior leadership of team at Spark and one of the key leaders within Spark’s R&D.

Manage the Discovery team to achieve business goals and objectives.

  • Foster Spark’s Culture.  Role model the Spark Values. Create an environment where team members thrive by living our truths, always in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Emphasize to employees that “how” they achieve performance objectives is just as important as “what” they accomplish.
  • Hire & Integrate.  Know what skills, experiences and capabilities are needed to achieve current and future business goals. Take an active role in attracting and selecting talent who are inspired by our Mission, Vision and Values.  Consciously create a team with diverse backgrounds, experiences, skill sets and perspectives.  Help new team members successfully integrate into Spark so they can actively contribute and add value as quickly as possible.
  • Manage performance.   Ensure every team member knows what is expected of them, what it takes to be successful, and how they are progressing.  Provide team members with continuous and on-going performance feedback, holding everyone accountable to achieve results while demonstrating the Spark Values. Help team members understand how their work contributes to the overall success of Spark by continuously communicating priorities, decisions and changes; adjusting goals as needed.

Develop people.   Understand each individual team member’s career goals. strengths and motivators.  Partner with your employees to identify areas for development, conduct coaching conversations regularly and provide guidance on ways to develop through on the job experiential learning and stretch opportunities.

Education and Experience Requirements

  • Ph.D. or M.D. Ph.D. in a relevant discipline (biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, molecular virology).
  • A minimum of 20 years of relevant experience in research and technology and drug development with an outstanding track record of achievements.
  • Proven successful strategic leadership experience at a senior level is required.
  • Industry experience is not strictly required.

Key Skills, Abilities, and Competencies

  • We are looking for an individual who is passionate about gene therapy and novel technologies.
  • Ability to partner with the CSO to develop strategies for applying existing and novel technologies to new indications/targets.
  • Strong strategic leadership experience in managing similar functions in peer organizations.
  • In-depth expertise in molecular biology and techniques relevant to gene therapy and novel technologies.
  • Strong management and leadership skills and the proven ability to drive innovation and provide vision and direction for the Discovery team, the broader R&D organization.
  • Ability to represent Spark Research as a key opinion leader for platform and technology innovation
  • Proven ability to interact with senior management in complex research organizations
  • Ability to liaise with thought partners and industry leaders to establish collaborative partnerships that lead to successful platform and novel technology outcomes
  • Strong understanding of broad gene therapy research and ability to coordinate resources to partner with Therapeutic Areas in enabling research
  • Effective communication skills and ability to collaborate, present expertise, and influence key technical committees across Spark
  • Demonstrated ability to effectively manage performance and talent.
  • Proven record of building high-performing teams

Complexity and Problem Solving


  • Build strategy in partnership with Chief Scientific Officer to enable the achievement of R&D and corporate goals
  • Budgetary approval under direction from Chief Scientific Officer and CMT
  • Go/no-go approvals for investments within Discovery and/or related to Search & Evaluation
  • Resourcing and personnel decisions within Discovery

Internal and External Contacts


  • Partners closely with R&D senior leadership and Therapeutic Area Heads to support enabling research
  • Consults with R&D senior leadership and Therapeutic Area Heads to advise on platform/vector decisions and understand TA needs for future innovation
  • Maintains close contact with Bioanalytics and Research Operations functions to proactively align resourcing support
  • Maintains close relationship with Research Chief of Staff to provide information and contribute to cross-Research coordination efforts
  • Develops and maintains strong network to leverage knowledge outside of Spark and represent Spark to the external gene therapy community

Other Job Requirements

Travel may be required, including attendance at relevant science and technology meetings, manage collaborations, and travel related to search and evaluation and business development.