Rentschler captain Mathias jumps ship to Oxford Biomedica as biopharma's CEO rotation rolls on

Amid a spate of biopharma CEO pivots, two prominent contract manufacturers from Europe are getting in on the action.

Monday, Rentschler revealed its chief executive, Frank Mathias, Ph.D., was stepping down after seven years at the helm of the German CDMO.

Not content to settle for an early retirement, Mathias quickly telegraphed his next move. Tuesday, British manufacturing outfit Oxford Biomedica announced it snapped up the outgoing Rentschler chief to lead its business beginning next spring.

Mathias will formally take the lead at Oxford Biomedica in March 2023, the AstraZeneca-partnered vaccine and gene therapy manufacturer said in a release.

Mathias isn’t quitting Rentschler entirely. He plans to rejoin the company’s supervisory board after the end of the fiscal year, which also ends in March 2023. He’ll also maintain his leadership duties while the company’s board searches for its CEO successor, Rentschler said.

Mathias joined Rentschler’s supervisory board in 2013 and took the reins as CEO in April 2016. During his tenure, Mathias helped propel the company into the upper echelons of the global CDMO market, according to the company.

Rentschler also touted manufacturing expansions into the U.S., plus a pivot into cell and gene therapy that took place under Mathias’ watch.

At Oxford Biomedica, meanwhile, Mathias will play a key role in the U.K.-based CDMO’s mission to become an “innovative global viral vector leader,” Oxford’s interim CEO Roch Doliveux said in a statement.

“I know that Frank will drive our viral vector leadership to unleash the potential of cell and gene therapy for biopharma companies to save many lives,” he added.

Viral vectors are engineered viruses used to deliver gene therapies, gene-modified cell therapies like CAR-Ts, plus certain vaccines. The industry has been warning of a viral vector bottleneck for months now, highlighting the importance of manufacturing efforts like Oxford’s.

With those efforts and more, Mathias will certainly be busy when he joins Oxford in the spring.

Back in January, Oxford Biomedica said it would pay $130 million upfront and invest $50 million to fund the newly-formed U.S.-based Oxford Biomedica Solutions in return for an 80% stake in North American viral vector producer Homology Medicines.  

The company this summer also renewed its COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing pact with AZ. In July, Oxford said it had extended its contract with AZ through 2025 to make doses of Vaxzevria on an “as needed basis.”

AZ isn’t Oxford’s only Big Pharma partner, either. Last December, Oxford and Novartis expanded an agreement to produce lentiviral vectors for several of the Swiss drugmaker’s CAR-T therapies. The move extended the partners’ collaboration agreement until the end of 2028.

News of Mathias’ career pivot coincides with CEO moves at a host of other biopharma outfits. Just this week, Teva Pharmaceutical selected former Sandoz captain Richard Francis as its next CEO, who’s set to replace outgoing Teva chief Kåre Schultz at the top of the new year.

Earlier in November, Seagen and Biogen also concluded monthslong hunts for their company’s successors, settling on oncology veteran David Epstein and ex-Sanofi chief Christopher Viehbacher, respectively.