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Head of Neurobiology

Date: Mar 26, 2021

Location: PA, US

Company: Spark Therapeutics

Spark Therapeutics is seeking a highly talented individual to lead its gene therapy research team responsible for early enabling and translational research across Neurology therapeutic areas. Reporting directly to the Chief Scientific Officer, a core responsibility of the selected candidate will be to build and provide strategic oversight and leadership to a department entrusted with advancing high quality and timely gene therapies from concept up to clinical development.  As a subject matter expert in Neurobiology, the selected candidate will identify new areas of research, prioritize existing projects, and contribute to overall strategic research plans.

 

Primary goals for this role will include:

  • Develop and execute a vision and strategy for growing the early research pipeline and targeting new indications and disease areas
  • Prioritize program activity and investment across the portfolio
  • Ensure quality and timeliness of program activities across Spark’s Neurology therapeutic areas, moving quality early candidates through to the IND-enabling phase
  • Prioritize research focus across enabling research, translational research, and target identification/validation/optimization
  • Collaborate closely with Discovery function on the optimization of current platforms and the development of novel technologies
  • Ensure cross-therapeutic area and cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing
  • Clear roadblocks for program teams to deliver results timely and efficiently

 

The ideal candidate will be a seasoned pharmaceutical or biotechnology executive with an outstanding record of accomplishment in drug discovery, from early assay development through target validation, to lead candidate development and preparation for early clinical studies. A thorough understanding of all the requirements and processes needed in drug development from target identification to regulatory filing is required. This Leader will inspire confidence in both the scientific biopharmaceutical and academic communities and will play a critical role in growing the company.  Ideally, the candidate will have had significant experience and accomplishments in academia and/or in the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry.

 

The successful candidate will be an established leader, confident, highly creative, energetic, with deep scientific knowledge and passion for gene therapy. She/he is an innovator with proven track record of achievements in academia and/or industry.

Responsibilities

% of Time

Job Function and Description

60%

  • Develop and execute a scientific vision for gene therapy for the next 5-10 years and provide vision and direction to therapeutic programs and asset development
  • Lead the development and implementation of pre-clinical research programs from discovery to IND, delivering pre-clinical data packages that translate to therapeutic benefit in patients
  • Initiate projects and allocate resources across multiple therapeutic areas, in close collaboration with the Chief Scientific Officer, the Head of Discovery, and cross-functional committees
  • Develop and execute strategy for leveraging external research collaborators
  • Investigate, create, and/or develop new methods and technologies for program advancement
  • Ensure appropriately specified GXP quality protocols
  • Represent function in broad R&D teams with high technical proficiency, scientific creativity, and collaboration with others

20%

  • Participate in search and evaluation business development activities by identifying potential external opportunities and being part of due diligence teams

20%

  • Provide input cross-functionally and contribute broadly to the Spark portfolio and governance committees

10%

  • Be a 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 scientific discipline.
  • A minimum of 20 years of relevant experience with an outstanding track record of achievements, including:
    • Successful program execution across a range of therapeutic areas and indications
    • Broad scientific knowledge of modern drug discovery that has been applied to creating a pipeline of clinical candidates
    • Experience with assays and technologies related to adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors
    • Proven track record in establishing and leading mutually productive commercial and academic collaborations
    • Strong relationships with institutions and foundations dedicated to improving human health
    • International scientific reputation ideally with a strong drug discovery publication record in peer-reviewed journals
    • Deep collaborative experience in translating pre-clinical efficacy and safety into therapeutic benefit
  • Industry experience is not strictly required but considered a plus.

Key Skills, Abilities, and Competencies 

  • We are looking for an individual who is passionate about gene therapy, research, and drug development.
  • Ability to partner with the CSO to develop strategies for current and new therapeutic area research.
  • Strong leadership experience in managing similar functions at a senior level in peer organizations.
  • Strong management and leadership skills and the proven ability to drive innovation and provide vision and direction for broader Gene Therapy Research department.
  • Strong understanding of platform research and ability to coordinate resources to partner with Head of Discovery.
  • Ability to represent Spark Research as a key opinion leader for pre-clinical research.
  • Ability to liaise with thought partners and industry leaders to establish collaborative partnerships that lead to successful platform and novel technology outcomes
  • Scientifically rigorous, highly organized, and with significant attention to detail
  • Strong, collaborative spirit and ability to nurture team relationships and promote creativity
  • Effective communication skills and ability to collaborate, present expertise, and influence key technical committees across Spark
  • Demonstrated ability to effectively manage performance and talent and proven record of building high-performing teams.

Complexity and Problem Solving

As a member of the core Research leadership team, this role is responsible for making key decisions, including but not limited to:

  • Setting the vision and direction in partnership with Chief Scientific Officer to enable the achievement of Research goals
  • Setting the department’s budget under direction from Chief Scientific Officer and CMT
  • Making go/no-go decisions for investments within Gene Therapy Research and/or related to Search & Evaluation
  • Making resourcing and personnel decisions within their team

Internal and External Contacts

Coordination, collaboration, and partnership are critical for this role. Examples include:

  • Partners closely with Head of Discovery to align investments and resources around platform development
  • 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.  This may include domestic or international.