Former Moderna CMO Zaks goes back to his Israeli roots, reemerging as Teva board director

Teva
Teva expects Tal Zaks, M.D., Ph.D., who was most recently Moderna’s chief medical officer for six years, could offer his biopharma insights to help guide the Israeli pharma's R&D activities. (Teva)

Former Moderna chief medical officer, Tal Zaks, M.D., Ph.D., revealed in February that he’s leaving the high-profile mRNA biotech. Now we know where he’s heading—at least as a first next step in his career.

The Israeli scientist will serve as an independent director on the board of Israeli pharma Teva, beginning Oct. 1, the company said in a securities filing (PDF). He will become a member of the board’s science and technology committee.

“Dr. Zaks has a unique combination of medical training, broad academic knowledge and experience and executive experience in the biopharmaceutical industry,” Teva said in the filing. His insights could provide Teva’s board with a broad scientific perspective of drug development, it added.

Zaks was most recently Moderna’s CMO for six years, overseeing the company’s clinical development and regulatory affairs. He saw Moderna grow from a preclinical biotech to a commercial business with an authorized COVID-19 vaccine.

Before that, he served oncology-related stints at Sanofi, GSK and for a short period from 2008 to 2010, Cephalon, before Teva scooped it up for $6.8 billion in 2011. As a medical oncologist, Zaks earned his M.D. and Ph.D. from Ben Gurion University in Israel and conducted postdoctoral research at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

RELATED: Moderna's CMO Zaks quits for 'next leg of his career' after swift move to commercial focus

While Zaks’ previous career has focused on driving innovations, Teva is a leading generics maker that has more recently started to build a bigger innovative drugs portfolio. However, Teva’s pivot, spearheaded by CEO Kåre Schultz, hasn’t been going well.

Teva’s migraine drug Ajovy has fallen short of industry watchers’ expectations and lagged behind its CGRP competitors from Eli Lilly and Amgen. The company stated that it’s aiming for a third of the injectable prevention market. And more competitors including oral drugs are ready to steal market share.

Also in Teva’s branded drug department, Austedo, which is used to decrease involuntary movements in Huntington’s disease, has also been underperforming. In its most recent update in July, Teva lowered expected Austedo 2021 revenues by $100 million to $850 million thanks to slower recovery from the pandemic.

Meanwhile, lawsuits on opioid marketing and generics price-fixing are distracting Teva’s attention.

RELATED: Teva, after locking up new Ajovy patents, sues Eli Lilly again in heated migraine drug fight

Teva’s publicly disclosed specialty drug pipeline is also thin. The future of its Regeneron-partnered nonopioid pain drug fasinumab looks depressing in osteoarthritis-related chronic pain after an FDA advisory committee voted overwhelmingly against the safety monitoring program Pfizer and Eli Lilly had proposed for their fellow NGF inhibitor tanezumab. Fasinumab and tanezumab share similar concerns of potentially increased risk of rapidly progressive osteoarthritis.

In a note to investors in April, RBC Capital Markets analyst Daniel Busby said he continued to struggle with Teva’s longer-term growth outlook.

Now, Teva hopes Zaks could offer it additional guidance on the science front. But it’s hard to think that for Zaks, 56, a Teva board seat would be a full-time job after spending much time in the public spotlight while with Moderna. Perhaps another C-level job is to be unveiled for Zaks.