Facebook CFO David Wehner has joined the board of Alector, a biotech company that is working to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
Facebook since he took the job in 2014. He previously served on the board of StubHub.
It might seem like an unusual choice for Wehner, whose career has spanned technology and finance, rather than health care. But his predecessor, David Ebersman, followed a similar path, leaving Facebook to start a mental health company called Lyra Health. Ebersman also had a background in biotech.
The appointment comes at a time when employee morale at Facebook has plunged. A recent internal survey reportedly found that 52 percent of employees were optimistic about the company’s future, down from 84 percent a year ago.
Wehner isn’t the only executive at the company to seek opportunities outside of his day job.
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg takes a break every quarter to hear from scientists from the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub talk about their research. (Zuckerberg is one of the largest investors in the Biohub and he serves on its board alongside his wife, Priscilla Chan, and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.).
Founded in 2013, Alector is viewed as one of the more ambitious bets in the biotech world. It is looking to cure Alzheimer’s disease, which is a holy grail in the biotech industry, as so many promising efforts have failed. There is currently no cure for the disease, which affects 5 million Americans.
Alector’s approach to tackling disorders of the brain is a bit different than its competitors.
Most companies have focused on ways to remove or prevent the build up of amyloid plaque, which is known to degrade brain function. Alector instead is looking to stimulate the immune cells to clear away the harmful proteins associated with these conditions. It is currently working with pharmaceutical giant AbbVie on two potential treatments for Alzheimer’s, and also hopes to bring its drug development program, which includes potential therapies for Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia, to the clinic later this year.
Along with Wehner, the company also appointed Richard Scheller, chief science officer of 23andMe, and Louis Lavigne, former chief financial officer of Genentech, to its board. “We look forward to leveraging their insights in drug development, strategic financial management, business operations and corporate growth strategies in order to accelerate transformative medicines with the goal of curing neurodegenerative diseases,” said Arnon Rosenthal, Alector’s CEO, in a statement.
The appointments of two CFOs to the board could signal an impending public offering for the company, which raised a $133 million round in July of this year. Its backers include the Dementia Discovery Fund, which Bill Gates contributed to, as well as GV, the venture arm of Google holding company Alphabet. It also received investments from a slew of drugmakers including Eli Lilly and Merck.