Elaine Sun, a former investment banker-turned life sciences executive who was most recently CFO of Halozyme Therapeutics and previous to that a CFO at SutroVax, now Vaxcyte, became Mammoth Biosciences’ COO-CFO last month.
Sun is the first CFO for the Jennifer Doudna-co-founded biotech firm Mammoth, which last year announced that it had joined the ranks of “unicorn” startups after obtaining financing that indicated a valuation of more than $1 billion.
- Sun’s appointment follows just months after Scribe Therapeutics, another Doudna-co founded biotech firm focused on developing gene-editing technology, tapped former Barclays banker David Parrot, underscoring a new stage of growth for the two firms in the pioneering CRISPR sector.
Both Scribe and Mammoth have strong credentials, having been co-founded by Jennifer Doudna, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for pioneering work on CRISPR-Cas9, a method of editing DNA.
But their new CFOs each have their own distinct outlooks on the prospects for initial public offerings in the current market. Scribe’s CFO David Parrot recently said he was brought in to take the firm public at some point, but is among the ranks of CFOs that have paused plans to take companies public in the face of stock market volatility.
In contrast, Sun in an interview said Mammoth would consider a broad range of routes to finance its growth, including private and public options while declining to specifically comment on whether she was charged with taking the company public. Still, she said she has learned over the years that strong companies can go public even in turbulent markets. “Even in this market, great companies can get out,” she said.
Now a three-time CFO in the life sciences sector, earlier in her career Sun was in investment banking. She was a managing director at Evercore Partners and prior to that a managing director at Merrill Lynch & Co. Over that time she was involved in pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device transactions valued at over $50 billion.
In her dual COO-CFO roles at Mammoth Sun will tap that background, acting as something of a bridge between scientific and financial worlds that intersect at the company. “There’s so much potential here,” Sun said. “I’m here to help us figure out the priorities and determine what the hills are that we take and in what order – and how we best capture what’s going on inside of Mammoth and translate that to Wall Street.”
Reflecting on what drew Sun to join Mammoth, she cited its plans to use the CRISPR technology in a range of applications including diagnostic, therapeutic as well as other industrial or manufacturing uses. “I haven’t seen another company, certainly in the current landscape, that has this kind of multidimensionality,” Sun said.
In recent progress Mammoth has made on the diagnostic side, the company in January received FDA emergency use authorization for a CRISPR-based COVID-19 test.