Press Releases

Wugen Appoints Daniel Kemp, Ph.D., as Chief Executive Officer

Biotech Executive and former Vice President of Research & Development at Takeda Pharmaceuticals brings notable expertise in cell therapies and strategic business development to the company

ST. LOUIS, MO, and SAN DIEGO, CA, April 14, 2021 – Wugen Inc., a clinical stage biotechnology company developing a pipeline of allogeneic, off-the-shelf cell therapies, today announced the appointment of Daniel M. Kemp Ph.D., as the company’s Chief Executive Officer. Dr. Kemp is an accomplished researcher with over 30 publications and built his career at Novartis, Merck and Takeda over 20 years leading pipeline initiatives from early discovery through to the clinic. More recently, he was responsible for transacting Takeda’s key strategic partnerships in the CAR-NK and CAR-T cell therapy space.

As CEO of Wugen, Kemp will initially focus on propelling the company’s allogeneic memory NK and CAR-T cell therapy platforms through mid-stage clinical development and continue to build on Wugen’s current strategic partnerships. Dr. John McKearn, the founding Chief Executive Officer of Wugen and a managing director at RiverVest Venture Partners, will remain as Chairman of the Board of Directors.

“We welcome Dan as an experienced strategist with invaluable knowledge of cell therapy development and strong research background. We look forward to him leading the company’s rapid growth and innovative pipeline of cell therapies to treat both hematologic and solid organ malignancies,” said John McKearn. “His leadership experience and ability to make good strategic business decisions will be critical to Wugen’s path forward.”

Dr. Kemp added, “I am thrilled to be joining such an exceptional team at Wugen. I’m incredibly impressed with how rapidly the company has leveraged its foundational partnerships with Washington University, HCW Biologics and Alpha Biopharma to advance its lead Memory NK cell therapy through clinical proof of concept for relapsed/refractory AML, in addition to advancing its “off-the-shelf” fratricide-resistant CAR-T cell therapy for clinical testing later this year to treat T-cell cancers.  I thank John for his trust in me and in the strong foundation that he has created for Wugen.”

During his tenure at Takeda, Dr. Kemp was a formative member of the company’s oncology cell therapy leadership team where he transacted a series of cornerstone collaborations that established a pipeline of CAR-NK, CAR-T and ɣδT cell programs. Notably, Dan spearheaded the in-licensing of Takeda’s flagship allogeneic NK cell program from MD Anderson Cancer Center in late 2019, which consolidated the emergence of NK cell therapies as an important therapeutic platform in the immuno-oncology space. He served on the Boards of GammaDelta Therapeutics and Adaptate Biotherapeutics, both companies that he was instrumental in creating in 2017 and 2019, respectively.  Previously, Dr. Kemp was Senior Vice President at Beryllium (acquired by UCB) where he was responsible for directing drug discovery partnerships, and prior to that he directed drug discovery programs at Merck Research Labs ranging from target validation to clinical proof of concept.  At Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, he led an early discovery team in diabetes and metabolic diseases.

Dr. Kemp received his BSc and Ph.D. in molecular pharmacology from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK.  He was awarded an HHMI Fellowship at Harvard Medical School and carried out his postdoc research on pancreatic beta-cell biology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

About Wugen
Wugen is developing universal “off-the-shelf” cell therapies for the treatment of cancer and was founded on technology licensed from Washington University in St. Louis. For more information, please visit 

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