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Biotechnology News Magazine

Thomas Willemsen Is Appointed President and CEO of Tessa Therapeutics

Seasoned pharmaceutical industry executive to lead Tessa’s corporate and development strategy built around its proprietary autologous and allogeneic CAR-T platforms

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Appointment follows Tessa’s recent US$126 million financing and precedes several clinical and data milestones expected during the second half of 2022 and early 2023

Tessa Therapeutics Ltd. (Tessa), a clinical-stage cell therapy company developing next-generation cancer treatments for hematological malignancies and solid tumors, today announced the appointment of Thomas Willemsen as its President and Chief Executive Officer effective October 1, 2022. Mr. Willemsen has also been named as a member of Tessa’s Board of Directors.

Mr. Thomas Willemsen brings more than 25 years of experience to Tessa with extensive international management and leadership experience in the pharmaceutical industry. He joins Tessa from Takeda Pharmaceuticals, where he served as Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific, leading the transformation of Takeda across 10 markets and enhancing its focus on rare and genetic diseases, oncology, and vaccines.

As President and CEO, Mr. Willemsen will lead Tessa’s corporate, business and development strategy focused on maximizing the value potential of the company’s proprietary autologous and allogeneic CAR-T platforms, including ongoing clinical programs involving its autologous CD30-CAR-T therapy (TT11) and allogeneic CD30.CAR EBVST therapy (TT11X). Mr. Willemsen will lead Tessa from its global headquarters in Singapore. John Ng, who had served as Tessa’s acting CEO since November 2021, will continue as the company’s Chief Technical Officer.

“Tessa is extremely pleased to add an executive of Thomas’ caliber as our new President and CEO, coming at a time of significant optimism at the company as we pursue a multi-tier development strategy built around our proprietary CAR-T technologies and fueled by the recently completed US$126 million financing,” stated Göran Ando, M.D., Chairman of the Board of Tessa Therapeutics. “Thomas’ career is highlighted by senior leadership positions at several global pharmaceutical companies, including Takeda, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck KGaA. His combination of executive experience at global pharma companies and deep understanding of commercialization and oncology makes Thomas an ideal executive to lead Tessa’s next stage of growth.”

Prior to Takeda, Thomas Willemsen held the position of Vice President, Oncology, at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for its Intercontinental & Emerging Markets business, where he was assigned to develop the business’ strategy for Asia & Emerging Markets, including Access Strategy and Commercial Structure design. Prior to that, Mr. Willemsen served as Chairman and General Manager for GSK in China, and as General Manager of GSK Taiwan. He also spent 12 years with Merck KGaA in various commercial and regional roles in the Asia Pacific region, and as the Head of its German Oncology business unit.

Mr. Thomas Willemsen graduated with an MBA from Trier University, Germany, and attained a Chinese Language Degree from Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China. He speaks German, English, and Mandarin.

“Tessa is at the forefront of developing the next generation of CAR-T therapies, including our allogeneic ‘off-the-shelf’ EBVST technology, which has demonstrated very encouraging safety and efficacy data in the ongoing Phase 1/2 clinical trial in CD30 positive lymphomas,” said Mr. Willemsen. “I look forward to working with the entire Tessa team and continuing the positive progress with our CAR-T programs as we strive to ultimately bring these important therapies to patients with high unmet medical needs.”

Dr. Ando concluded, “On behalf of Tessa, I would like to commend John Ng for serving as our acting CEO during the past several months. Under John’s leadership, Tessa achieved numerous clinical and business successes, including the close of the Series A financing and the recent initiation of a clinical trial of TT11 in combination with nivolumab, which has the potential to introduce TT11 as a second-line therapy for relapsed and refractory CD30+ classical Hodgkin lymphoma patients.”

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