Photo courtesy of Escient
Inside Escient’s San Diego lab, where its team is pioneering ‘elegant’ science.

Photo courtesy of Escient Inside Escient’s San Diego lab, where its team is pioneering ‘elegant’ science.

San Diego-based Escient Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage company focused on discovering and developing therapies to address serious, unserved medical needs, has named Joshua Grass as the company’s new chief executive officer.
Grass, who also will join the company’s board of directors, succeeds Alain Baron, M.D., who recently retired but will remain a strategic advisor to Escient through the first quarter of 2022.


Joshua Grass CEO Escient

“I am very excited to be leading Escient during this next phase in its evolution,” said Grass. “The team has developed very elegant science in characterizing several Mrgprs (Mas-Related G-Protein-Coupled Receptors) as potentially important drug targets for large unmet needs.”

“Now, with drug candidates against these targets, the company is poised to translate this science into important medicines for neuroinflammatory and immune activation diseases,” Grass added.

Biotech Vet

Prior to joining Escient, Grass most recently served as CEO of Modis Therapeutics. In 2017, Grass launched Modis with a $30 million Series A financing while working at F-Prime Capital as an Entrepreneur in Residence.
 (Modis was subsequently acquired by Zogenix in 2019 for $250 million upfront and $400 million in total consideration.)

Before joining F-Prime, Grass was a member of the BioMarin senior executive management team. During his 15-year tenure at BioMarin, he led the acquisition and divestiture of many technologies and products and participated in the global development and launch of multiple products to treat rare genetic diseases.

Grass started his career in biotech as a scientist at Cerus Corp. before holding roles in finance and equity research at boutique investment banks. He holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and an MBA in finance and entrepreneurship from the William E. Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester.


Marcus Boehm, Ph.D. Co-founder and chief scientific officer Escient

A Dynamic Leadership Style

“Josh’s deep industry experience and impressive track record combined with his scientific and business background and dynamic leadership style make him the right leader for Escient. We are excited to have him at the helm and welcome him to the role,” said Marcus Boehm, Ph.D., Escient’s co-founder and chief scientific officer.

“On behalf of the board of directors and the entire team at Escient, I want to thank Alain for his leadership in building a world-class company and team,” Boehm added.

With the appointment of Grass, which is effective immediately, Kathleen Sereda Glaub, board chair at Escient, said the company is “well-positioned for the next stage of growth in Mrgpr drug discovery and clinical development.”

Founded: 2017
CEO: Joshua Grass
Employees: 43
Business: Clinical-stage biotech
Headquarters: San Diego
Notable: Mrgprs are “chemosensory” receptors believed to act as surveillance detectors for offensive stimuli from both the external and internal environments.