Regenerative medicine wound healing company SironRX Therapeutics has hired a first-time CEO as its first-ever, full-time CEO.
Evan Facher most recently worked as general manager of Pittsburgh interventional operations with MedRad, a medical device company that’s an arm of Bayer HealthCare. In eight years with MedRad, Facher held a variety of roles that included business development, product development and overseeing M&A activities. Prior to that, he was in business development with Cleveland-based stem cell developer Athersys.
He joins SironRX at a key time, as the Cleveland-based company has just received regulatory approval to begin a phase 1 clinical trial with patients who’ve undergone a median sternotomy procedure, a surgery that involves cutting through the sternum with a saw.
SironRX is based on regenerative medicine technology developed at the Cleveland Clinic. SironRX’s previous CEO, Rahul Aras, split his time between the company and another startup based on the same technology, Juventas Therapeutics. Aras is giving up his chief executive role with SironRX to focus on Juventas, which recently landed a key strategic investor in Takeda Pharmaceuticals.
In the interview below, Facher discusses where SironRX fits in the wound healing space and his biggest challenge as a newly christened CEO.
Talk about the competitive landscape SironRX is facing.
Broadly speaking, the competitive landscape in the general wound healing space is fairly large and includes companies such as Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Covidien, Kinetic Concepts and Integra. These companies typically focus on synthetic wound dressings, negative pressure devices and engineered tissue to treat chronic wounds.
We’re focused on the acute wound repair and scar prevention space, which is applicable to a very broad population — there are about 45 million surgical procedures per year — and has many fewer players than the chronic field. We’re using a novel regenerative medicine approach to enhance the body’s natural healing capabilities. Our competitive advantage is that our therapy accelerates healing and reduces scar formation. Only a small number of companies globally are engaged in this exciting area of medicine to address this significant unmet medical need. Excaliard Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Pfizer last year) and RXi Pharmaceuticals are the main players in this area, and we each approach the challenge from very different perspectives.
Are there any key takeaways you have learned from CEOs you have worked with in the past that you will apply to this job?
Yes. One of the main ones is the need to create a clear vision and have the passion to deliver on it. I have been fortunate enough to work at small, medium and very large organizations across business development, fundraising, strategy creation, new product development, marketing, sales, etc. I’ve learned that the ability to create a compelling business proposition and credible plan of action along with the capacity to motivate others to work alongside you in advancing these items creates an environment for success.
What are your initial top priorities at SironRX?
My top, near-term focus is execution against our product development time line. We recently received IND allowance from the FDA to initiate a 48-patient double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial evaluating our drug product and anticipate first patient dosing over the summer. While the trial is officially a phase 1, we designed it to be more reminiscent of a phase 2. We also believe this will be completed around next summer with all patient follow-up and full data review.
Our therapy has demonstrated accelerated rates of healing and reduced scarring after delivery to skin around wounds in multiple preclinical investigations. Now we will be examining the effect of the drug in patients who have undergone a median sternotomy as part of a cardiothoracic surgery. Importantly, this trial is focused on obese and diabetic populations — patients who typically have a harder time healing compared to the general population and a higher rate of postsurgical-related wound complications.
As a first time CEO what do you see as your biggest challenge?
I think one of my biggest challenges will be balancing the needs of multiple different groups both internal and external to the company. Even though SironRx is still relatively small, there are a large number of relationships that at times have competing interests that must be balanced. For example, we have good reason to believe this product can serve as a platform for addressing a host of dermal wound types as well as injuries to other organ systems. Members of our team may want to explore a host of these opportunities as a way to further increase value; however, other members might believe the best path to value is in purely focusing on executing the current trial without diluting the resource base — so, who is right?
I view this as a good problem to have as we have multiple options, any of which will lead to a good outcome. At the end of the day, all involved want a positive experience and all want the company to be successful, so I am confident we will get through any bumps in the road.