Founder-CEO Interview Series

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Amir Hefni

Dr. Amir Hefni is the CEO of Resolution Therapeutics, joining the company in Aug 2023 from Novartis where he was Global Head of Cell and Gene Therapy. Previously, he was a Global Asset Head in Oncology at Ipsen and spent most of his career at Bristol-Myers Squibb with roles across the US and Europe. Amir holds a BSc and PhD in Pharmacology from King’s College London and an MBA from Warwick Business School.

Founder-CEO Interview Series

with Amir Hefni

Amir, you’ve had an impressive international career across various countries and therapeutic areas. What unique perspectives and insights have you gained from your global experience that you bring to Resolution Therapeutics?

I am a big believer in the power of diversity. Having had the pleasure of working across several countries and therapeutic areas, I found the best approach to solving the biggest problems is through the lens of diverse perspectives. It’s not always easy, in fact at times, it can feel uncomfortable and frustrating, especially when you are convinced that your approach is the right one. However, if I reflect on some of the toughest challenges I have faced in my career, it is the diversity of perspectives from the team around the table that delivers the best ideas and successes. It makes the impossible possible!

Another insight is the importance of being solution-oriented. It is easy to get bogged down when something doesn’t work. Whilst it is important to do a root cause analysis to learn and improve, it is critical to pivot quickly towards ‘how do we make this work’! I am constantly inspired by how the lean team at Resolution Therapeutics embraces a solution-oriented approach – it creates a winning mindset.

Resolution Therapeutics is pioneering macrophage cell therapy for inflammatory organ diseases, with a focus on chronic liver disease. Can you explain the science behind this therapy and its potential impact on patient outcomes?

At Resolution Therapeutics we are on a mission to transform the outcomes of patients with inflammatory organ disease by pioneering macrophage cell therapy. Our first indication in End-Stage Liver Disease (ESLD), a devastating disease with liver transplant being the only treatment option. We are engineering macrophages, a type of white blood cell, with the potential to deliver a potent and durable anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effect and in doing so allowing the damaged liver to heal and regenerate.

We are a spinout from the University of Edinburgh driven by the work of Prof. Stuart Forbes, Professor of Regenerative Medicine. Prof. Forbes demonstrated the effectiveness of non-engineered macrophage cell therapy in the pre-clinical setting and recently in the clinical setting with two clinical trials. Our organisation is building on this robust science.

What drives you? 

  1. The patients we serve.
  2. Making a difference with the use of cutting-edge science.
  3. Working with great people.

Who or what has shaped who you are? 

Foundationally my parents, their work ethic, love, support, and generosity have left a lasting mark on me. I am also fortunate to have had some incredible managers and mentors over the years – amazing role models always willing to help, support and advise for which I am eternally grateful. And of course my family, especially my kids who are continuously helping me build resilience!

Can you discuss a particularly challenging moment or decision in your career that has prepared you for your role as CEO of Resolution Therapeutics?

It’s hard to pinpoint a single challenge or moment. I look back at experiences like working on an intense management consulting assignment looking at portfolio optimisation for a major pharma company, being in the field in my early Pharma career as a Medical Science Manager, leading sales, marketing and market access teams, being a Country General Manager and leading a therapeutic area and then a platform. You encounter challenges that eventually yield valuable lessons as you continue to grow and develop.

Chronic liver disease remains a significant global health issue with limited therapeutic options. How does Resolution Therapeutics aim to address this unmet need and what are the key milestones you hope to achieve in the next few years?

It’s a very exciting time for Resolution Therapeutics, we are about to make the transition from a pre-clinical to a clinical organisation with the initiation of our first interventional clinical program. Our EMERALD study will commence later this year and enable us to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of our engineered macrophage cell therapy platform in patients with ESLD.

Outside of your professional career, you’re also passionate about boxing. What parallels do you see between the discipline and strategy required in boxing and those needed in the biotech industry?

I got into boxing about seven years ago, living in NYC at the time. First of all it’s an awesome workout – a great mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercise and helps me stay energised and disciplined. Where I see parallels with business is the importance of when you get hit to remain focused, put the hit behind you and go again (i.e. get up, shake it off and go again). It has played a role in building not only my resilience but my ability to bounce back higher than before.

Resolution Therapeutics’ vision is to transform outcomes in inflammatory organ diseases. Beyond liver disease, what other potential applications do you see for your macrophage cell therapy platform?

There are very limited treatment options for patients with inflammatory organ diseases, our vision is to transform the clinical outcomes for these patients by reducing inflammation and resolving fibrosis. We are in the exploratory stages (pre-clinical) of evaluating the potential to bring this treatment to patients beyond liver disease.

As a leader with a strong background in commercialization and strategic planning, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs and leaders in the biotech industry who are looking to make a significant impact?

My advice is that many paths can lead you to the same objective/outcome – don’t worry about having to manage your career as a tick-box exercise. Focusing on roles that you are passionate about and that energise you will allow you to be the best that you can be. If you are mobile, get out there and live abroad – it’s a professional and personal experience which is truly very rewarding.

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