BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics has appointed a new vice president of patient advocacy and government affairs, a move intended to reinforce the company’s commitment to the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) community.
The new vice president, Mary Kay Turner, brings more than two decades of experience in biotech and pharmaceutical advocacy and policy. Before joining BrainStorm, Turner was head of patient advocacy and communications at Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma America, supporting the commercialization of Radicava (edaravone) for ALS.
“We are pleased to have Mary Kay join our company as we advance our ALS clinical program and prepare to initiate Phase 3 testing of NurOwn,” Chaim Lebovits, president and CEO of BrainStorm, said in a press release. “Having a strong patient advocacy perspective and voice in the community is integral to our mission of advancing tomorrow’s medicines. Mary Kay brings an extensive background in patient advocacy, government affairs and health policy. We are fortunate to have someone with her biopharma expertise and dedication to the patient community to join our team,” Lebovits said.
BrainStorm is a biotech engaged in the development of adult stem cell therapies derived from autologous bone marrow cells for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. BrainStorm’s NurOwn technology is an experimental therapy that uses a mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) platform to treat ALS.
NurOwn can be injected into the muscle (via the intramuscular method) or into the spinal canal (via the intrathecal method). The technology has been tested in about 75 patients with ALS in trials in the United States and Israel. In one of those trials, a clinically meaningful benefit was demonstrated by a higher response to NurOwn than to placebo.
“I have been impressed by the progress BrainStorm has made with NurOwn, particularly the outstanding Phase 2 clinical data which showed meaningful improvements in disease symptoms,” said Turner, whose appointment is effective Aug. 17. “Joining the company at this exciting juncture provides a great opportunity to work with respected leaders in neurology and cell therapy and to contribute to the development of a new treatment that could potentially transform the ALS landscape,” she said.
BrainStorm is waiting for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the launch of a Phase 3 clinical trial, and plans to start later this year.
Earlier this year, BrainStorm validated its own cryopreservation process for NurOwn cells, which preserves MSCs harvested from patients by freezing them in liquid nitrogen. This advance would prevent patients from having to undergo repeated harvests to produce additional doses of NurOwn cells.
BrainStorm’s choice to appoint Turner as the new vice president of patient advocacy and government affairs also strengthens its relation with the ALS Hope Foundation, where Turner sits on the board of directors.
“Mary Kay will lead the development and implementation of external collaborations that will address and support the needs of people living with ALS,” added Ralph Z. Kern, MD, MHSc, CEO and chief medical officer of BrainStorm. “Working directly with patient advocacy groups deepens our understanding of patients’ needs and aligns our efforts with the broader ALS community.”