Akcea taps first commercial chief as Waylivra debuts and pipeline advances

Akcea Therapeutics' new chief commercial officer is a company veteran who oversaw the launch of Tegsedi (pictured) and is now presiding over the EU launch of Waylivra. (Akcea)

As Akcea Therapeutics gets rolling with new rare-disease med Waylivra, it's filling a new post. Its first commercial chief is joining the C-suite from inside the company.

Kyle Jenne, who will fill the post, has led U.S. commercial operations at the company for the past two and half years, building its first sales force and helming the launch of Tegsedi, which treats polyneuropathy caused by hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis (hATTR).

Commercial responsibilities had been under the president’s role, but as Akcea—a majority-owned affiliate of Ionis Pharmaceuticals—continues to roll out its portfolio, the company decided to expand those duties into a dedicated position.

“During my time thus far at Akcea, I have worked to create an environment that is supportive, transparent, and performance-based among our U.S. commercial team. This environment and also our continued patient-focused approach will be carried through in a broader capacity among established teams in Canada and the EU,” Jenne said in an email interview.

RELATED: Ionis peeks behind the science with first official branding—30 years after its founding

Akcea launched ultrarare lipid disorder treatment Waylivra in several countries in the EU after a May approval, which came on the heels of an FDA rejection in August 2018.

Jenne said Akcea is working on launching Waylivra in additional EU countries in 2020 and will rely on the resources and teams already in place for Tegsedi. “We will make personnel decisions related to the U.S. and Canada as we gain more information from the regulatory agencies," he added.

Akcea’s broader pipeline includes AKCEA-TTR-LRx, a treatment for patients with both the hereditary and the wild type forms of ATTR that's set to begin phase 3 trials. The company also has the potential to license "additional assets from Ionis’ pipeline,” Jenne said.

Akcea also cut a worldwide licensing agreement with Pfizer, worth $250 million upfront, for its AKCEA-ANGPTL3-LRx, an investigational antisense therapy to treat patients with certain cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

RELATED: Ionis’ Tegsedi launches into head-to-head with Alnylam, but Pfizer’s waiting in the wings

Jenne is part of an emerging new leadership team at Akcea. In September, the CEO, president and COO left the company and the Akcea board installed Ionis’ chief business officer, Damien McDevitt, as interim CEO.