Geron, in hopes of finally gaining approval for its troubled cancer drug in 2024, hires a host of commercial, marketing execs

It’s been a long, bumpy road for Geron and its experimental blood cancer asset imetelstat, but, as the biotech hopes to finally be nearing the finish line, it is hiring a bunch of new commercial leads to help bring home the sales.

Geron’s imetelstat has endured a decade of woe, seeing an FDA halt on trials of the drug all the way back in 2014 over liver safety concerns, with partner Johnson & Johnson then in 2018 pulling out of a near $1 billion biobucks deal with the company for the drug, leaving its future in the balance.

Geron did not give up on the drug, pushed into phase 3 and delivered broadly positive data last year; it believes those data for the drug are enough to nab FDA approval in myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare type of blood cancer.

The California-based biotech plans to submit approval applications for the drug to the FDA in the summer and in Europe in the second half of the year, predicting a commercial launch of the therapy in the U.S. market in the first half of 2024, followed by the EU by the end of that year.

In anticipation of an approval, Geron is hiring new people across sales, marketing and commercial as it gears up for life as a commercial company after years of being an R&D biotech.

This includes Novartis alum Lorraine Shui, who becomes VP of marketing for Geron, where she’ll lead the overall commercial launch planning for imetelstat in the U.S. market.

This includes “leadership of the internal go-to-market cross-functional U.S. launch readiness team,” the biotech said in a press release, as well as buildup of the marketing team and leading work on the drug’s branding and promotion.

She comes to Geron after being at Novartis for just under a decade, most recently being its U.S. brand lead for sickle cell marketing. Before that tenure, she had market access and market research roles at Bristol Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson.

Alongside Shui comes Scott Hutson, who will be Geron’s new VP of sales and will lead the sales plan for its anticipated commercial launch of imetelstat in the U.S., including hiring a U.S. sales force.

Hutson comes from AstraZeneca, where he was senior commercial director for the lung cancer team, a role he had for more than eight years.

Finally, Geron has promoted Nishan Sengupta, Ph.D., as its VP of market access and pricing. Sengupta will run imetelstat’s strategic market access, hoping to prove the drug’s value and secure reimbursement. Sengupta has been at the biotech since 2021 but now moves up to this new role, coming off stints at Johnson & Johnson and Roche.