Business & Tech

Weeks after he signed a $70m deal with Vertex, Kymera’s CEO is out

Cambridge-based Kymera Therapeutics recently signed a $70 million business deal with Vertex Pharmaceuticals, based in Boston’s Seaport.
Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/File
Cambridge-based Kymera Therapeutics recently signed a $70 million business deal with Vertex Pharmaceuticals, based in Boston’s Seaport.

Laurent Audoly, CEO of Kymera Therapeutics, left the Cambridge biotech late last month, just weeks after the startup signed a $70 million deal with Vertex Pharmaceuticals, company executives said Monday.

A news release issued by the privately held company said Audoly “has decided to pursue new entrepreneurial opportunities” but did not elaborate. He has been temporarily succeeded by Nello Mainolfi, a cofounder and the chief scientific officer of the firm.

“I’m at this point running Kymera while a CEO search is ongoing,” Mainolfi said in an e-mail. Neither he nor a company spokeswoman would say whether Audoly had been ousted.

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Audoly could not be reached for comment. He has served as president and CEO since August 2017, according to his LinkedIn page, which says he attended Harvard Business School and earned a PhD in pharmacology from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

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Bruce Booth, a well-known life sciences venture capitalist who helped found Kymera and serves as chairman, said in the news release that he wanted to “thank Laurent for his significant contributions in the formative stages of Kymera’s development and progress.”

“Under Laurent’s leadership, the company advanced key corporate and research opportunities and cultivated an impressive team of drug hunters,” said Booth, a partner at Cambridge-based Atlas Venture. Kymera has 36 full-time employees.

On May 15, Vertex, the Boston biotech best known for its portfolio of drugs to treat cystic fibrosis, announced it will pay Kymera $70 million up front to collaborate on research and development of potential drugs to treat a range of diseases.

The four-year partnership is focused on inflammatory disorders and cancers, but the underlying science could apply to a broad range of illnesses, executives at both companies said. Kymera wants to develop drugs based on Nobel Prize-winning insights into how the body eliminates disease-causing proteins.

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When the partnership was announced, Mark Bunnage, senior vice president and site head for Boston research at Vertex, said Vertex executives were impressed with Kymera’s “compelling technology platform.”

Kymera was co-founded in 2016 by Atlas Venture. It has raised nearly $100 million in venture capital and signed an agreement last year to collaborate with GlaxoSmithKline. The financial terms of that deal were not disclosed.

Kymera wants to use the body’s innate ability to break down and recycle proteins and redirect it to target untreatable diseases. Its trademark approach, called Pegasus, is “disease agnostic,” meaning it could apply to many conditions.

The approach is based on insights that led to the 2004 Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to two scientists in Israel and one in the United States.

After the collaboration with Vertex was announced, Audoly said he was thrilled to be working with one of the state’s biggest homegrown drug makers.

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“Having the opportunity to partner with a sophisticated pharma company such as Vertex that’s really pushing the boundaries of innovation and trying to access new modalities is something we’re very excited about,” Audoly said in an interview at the time.

Vertex is best known for its drugs Kalydeco, Orkambi, and Symdeko — medicines used to treat cystic fibrosis. The rare genetic illness attacks the lungs and other organs.

Kymera also said Monday that Bruce Jacobs, a health care financial services veteran, has joined the biotech as chief financial officer.

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com