David Meeker, who stepped down from the top job at Cambridge-based Sanofi-Genzyme in June, is heading a new biotech that has received $76 million in financing and was founded by several of the most prominent names in life sciences.
Meeker will be chief executive of KSQ Therapeutics, in Kendall Square. The company plans to use a patented scientific tool to quickly pinpoint which of the 20,000 human genes make the best targets for drugs to treat cancer and malfunctions in the immune system — and then to develop those drugs.
“There is a compelling need to improve the quality of drug targets and to identify patients most likely to respond, because our industry and our health care systems are challenged by the sheer volume of potential new medicines,” he said.
Meeker, a 62-year-old Vermont native and onetime pulmonary critical-care physician at Cleveland Clinic, was a protege of Genzyme Corp.’s longtime chief executive, Henri Termeer, who died in May. Termeer built Genzyme into the largest life sciences employer in Massachusetts before the company was sold in 2011 to the French drug giant Sanofi SA for more than $20 billion.
In an interview with the Globe in April, Meeker said his departure after 23 years at Genzyme and Sanofi marked the “end of the first chapter after the merger” and that he had begun talking to people in the industry about his next act. At the time, he offered no specifics.
KSQ was founded without fanfare in 2015 by Dr. David Sabatini, of the Whitehead Institute and MIT; Dr. William Hahn, of the Broad Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Jonathan Weissman, of the UCSF School of Medicine; and Tim Wang, of MIT.
Flagship Pioneering and Polaris Partners are the founding investors.
The chief scientific officer for the new company is Frank Stegmeier, 42, a leading expert in functional genomics who led oncology target discovery at Novartis before joining KSQ. He has played a key role in the development of KSQ’s drug discovery tool, called CRISPRomics.
KSQ has 40 employees but plans to double its workforce over the next year.Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.