Article | January 1, 2024

Where Are They Now? Karuna Therapeutics

Source: Life Science Leader

By Ben Comer, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader

Steve Paul_CEO, Karuna Therapeutics
Steve Paul

Then: When Life Science Leader spoke with Karuna Therapeutics’ former CEO and current chief scientific officer Steve Paul in the summer of 2022, there was already significant buzz around KarXT, Karuna’s novel schizophrenia treatment. During one of our interviews, Paul noted that schizophrenia lowers a patient’s life expectancy, on average, by 30%, and that only 10% of schizophrenia patients are ever gainfully employed in their lifetimes. An enormous unmet need, to say the least: if KarXT is approved, Paul said, it will become the first treatment to target both the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Incorporated by PureTech Health in 2009, Karuna worked with “CROs all around the world” to help develop its pipeline assets, and to support a core group of internal medicinal chemists, biologists, and pharmacologists. When Life Science Leader reported on Karuna, the company had already hired Charmaine Lykins as chief commercial officer, even though Karuna wouldn’t be submitting an NDA for KarXT for another 12 months. However, Paul was confident about the drug’s potential success and innovative attributes, a sentiment echoed in the company’s stock price.

Now: On December 22, 2023, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) announced that it would acquire Karuna Therapeutics, and its promising neuroscience portfolio (including KarXT), in a deal worth $14 billion. The company filed its NDA for KarXT four weeks after our feature story was published, and in December of 2023, Paul transitioned out of his chairman, president and CEO role at Karuna, and became chief scientific officer and head of R&D. Bill Meury, Karuna’s current CEO, worked previously in private equity at Hildred Capital Management, and also served as EVP and chief commercial officer at Allergan. KarXT is expected to become a blockbuster product, one of several innovative CNS drugs that could enter the market in the coming months; others include psychedelics for the treatment of mental health conditions, and disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.