Tomi K. Sawyer

Chief Drug Hunter & President
Maestro Therapeutics

Tomi is an entrepreneurial drug hunter with ~40 years of industrial experience in both large pharma and biotech. Currently, he is Founding Chief Drug Hunter & President of Maestro Therapeutics, an emerging R&D enterprise (consulting/advisory) dedicated to transforming and accelerating peptide modality therapeutics. Most recently, Tomi was a Distinguished Scientist, Global Chemistry at Merck & Company (2014-2019) where he led a Peptide Drug Hunter Network of more than 100+ scientists actively engaged in peptide drug discovery, core capabilities and a knowledge engine. Noteworthy, this effort advanced new cell permeability screening tools and design rules for macrocyclic peptides, including those generated by super-diverse mRNA-display libraries in a strategic R&D collaboration with PeptiDream. Prior to joining Merck & Company in 2014, Tomi was the Founding Chief Scientific Officer at Aileron Therapeutics (2007-2013) and Senior Vice-President of Drug Discovery at Ariad Pharmaceuticals (1997-2006) which was recently acquired by Takeda. Tomi is well known for his contributions to GPCR, kinase, protease and protein-protein interaction drug discovery, including three marketed drugs –– Scenesse®/NDP-MSH (a peptide superagonist of MC1R for the treatment of the orphan skin diseases such as erythropoietic protophyria), Iclusig®/AP24534 (a small-molecule inhibitor of Bcr-Abl kinase and clinically-resistance mutants thereof for the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia), and Ridaforolimus (a novel phosphorus modified natural product macrocycle mTOR antagonist for the treatment of coronary artery disease via an EluNIR® stent system). Tomi also contributed to Sulanemadlin/ALRN-6924 (a stapled peptide dual-specific antagonist of MDM2/MDMX for the treatment of p53 wild-type and/or p53 mutant cancers) which is in Phase II clinical trials. Some other examples of his drug discovery campaigns include peptidomimetic renin inhibitors (Ditekiren and U-84700), the first reported peptidomimetic HIV protease and nonpeptide inhibitors (U-81749 and PD-107067), and the first reported peptidomimetic and nonpeptide Src SH2 antagonists (AP21773 and AP22408). Tomi is credited with >600 scientific publications, patents, and presentations. He holds Adjunct Professorship and Scientific Advisory Board appointments at the University of Massachusetts, the University of Arizona and Northeastern University Center for Drug Discovery. At his undergraduate alma mater, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Tomi is a Distinguished Alumni Entrepreneur and has served as a member of the MSUM Alumni Foundation Board. At his graduate alma mater, the University of Arizona, he is a Distinguished Alumni Entrepreneur and has affiliations with the College of Science, College of Medicine, College of Pharmacy, and Tech Launch Arizona. His scholarly and scientific awards include a DuVigneaud Award (American Peptide Society), a Distinguished Alumni Award (Minnesota State University Moorhead) and a Professional Achievement Award (University of Arizona). He is a member of numerous editorial boards (including Peptide Science), and he was the Founding Editor-in-Chief of Chemical Biology and Drug Design. Tomi is past-President of the American Peptide Society and was co-Chair of the Eighteenth American Peptide Symposium. Tomi is currently launching a Peptide Drug Hunter Consortium, a non-profit global network to empower the advancement of peptide preclinical research and clinical development at the interface of academia, biotech/pharma, and investors as well as contract organizations and vendors engaged in peptide science.