Peer Review

Abeona appoints new chief as Timothy Miller moves to CSO; Maxine Gowen passes Trevena baton to Carrie Bourdow; Scott Smith out in Celgene revamp

Carsten Thiel

→ In a sign of renewed focus, Abeona Therapeutics $ABEO has scooped Alexion’s Carsten Thiel to become its new chief, freeing up Timothy Miller to take on the CSO role while remaining as president. The board likes Thiel’s commercialization work on rare diseases at Alexion, as well as his operational track record at Amgen, and hopes he will put it all to use. As for Miller, he will focus on the ever-growing lineup of preclinical and clinical cell and gene therapy programs for rare genetic diseases.

→ Capping a tenure marked by both rapid growth and tough decisions, Maxine Gowen plans to step down, by the end of the year, from the CEO seat at Trevena $TRVN, the G protein-coupled receptor company she co-founded. She is succeeded by Carrie Bourdow, the old chief commercial officer who got promoted to SVP and COO just weeks ago. Prior to a stint at Cubist Pharma, Bourdow had spent part of her 20 years at Merck marketing its pain drugs — an experience that comes in handy at Trevena, which specializes in therapies for pain. Gowen will remain involved as a board director.   

→ A sudden management revamp at Celgene $CELG sent president and COO Scott Smith out the door, leaving CEO and chairman Mark Alles in charge of everything from clinical development to regulatory, the all-important hematology and oncology franchise as well as inflammation and immunology. Staggered by a series of late-stage setbacks capped by the FDA’s refusal to accept its application on their leading late-stage drug and looking vulnerable on its numbers, the big biotech is in desperate need to regain investor confidence. Alles’ reorganization appears to still be under way. Jefferies’ Michael Yee noted Monday night: “The company is reorganizing its executive team in the meantime, and we could hear several hires/promotions over the coming months.”

Macrolide Pharmaceuticals has some hefty goals about fighting dangerous superbugs by tweaking an old class of antibiotics. Longtime Novartis exec Mahesh Karande is now helping them get there as the new CEO of the Watertown, MA-based biotech, which just raised $20 million in a Series B round backed by three pharma giants. Karande spent several years hopping around the world, leading Novartis’ international business units. He was a VP and oncology business head in the US, president and pharma head for Africa and Egypt, and head of strategy and business development for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa. But Karande left Novartis last year to join Intarcia as VP and general manager — a role he left to take the helm at Macrolide.

→ While Dan Chicoine transitions to executive chairmanship at Crescita Therapeutics, Serge Verreault has stepped up to the CEO role. Verreault joined the Mississauga, ON-based dermatology company as president from a 14-year run at Valeant exactly a year ago, where he last served as the executive director of business development overseeing, among other things, a portfolio of skin products. He is now expected to leverage his deal using his experience to grow the commercial business on both the non-prescription skincare and prescription treatment sides.  

 Bay Area Stanford spinout Surrozen, which recently grabbed a $33M Series A, just appointed a new CEO and scientific co-founder. Craig Parker, the former SVP of corporate development at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, is coming on board as the company’s new chief executive. He’s taking the reins from Tim Kutzkey, a managing partner at The Column Group, who’s instead taking up the role of chairman of the board. The company, founded in 2016, is researching the Wnt pathway and the role it plays in regenerative medicine. In the same news release, Surrozen also appointed a new scientific co-founder in Hans Clevers, a professor of molecular genetics at the Hubrecht Institute. “The challenge of producing Wnt has been a great source of frustration in the field, impeding the advancement of organoid technology and a deeper dissection of Wnt signaling,” Clevers said in a statement. “Surrozen’s ability to generate potent and selective Wnt pathway agonists with drug-like properties is a real breakthrough.  I’m thrilled to join an esteemed group of co-founders as Surrozen continues its rapid pace of discovery and further innovates with its technology platforms.”

Jackie Fouse has assembled her executive team at Dermavant while bagging her fifth drug for a beefed up pipeline of skin therapies. The biotech, part of Vivek Ramaswamy’s network of companies at Roivant, recruited GlaxoSmithKline’s dermatology R&D chief David Rubinstein as chief scientific officer. Rubinstein earlier had worked at Duke. Richard Peterson, formerly at Medicis, has joined as CFO. Ariel Jasie, former CBO at Codiak BioSciences, came on board in the same role, with Chris Van Tuyl joining as general counsel. Fouse joined Ramaswamy’s group last July after stepping aside as president and COO at Celgene.

→ As Aurora Cannabis finishes up its buyout of Cannimed, it has tapped one of its own execs to temporarily replace Brent Zettl, who’s resigned as the CEO of Cannimed. Andrċ Jérôme, SVP of business integration at Aurora, was already tasked with fusing the new unit into the bigger medical cannabis business — a fitting role given that he arrived at the role after Aurora’s acquisition of his own company, H2 Biopharma.    

Laurie Myers

Laurie Myers is taking a more direct role in Cingulate Therapeutics, the precision timed-release drug delivery company she helped found. This fits a pattern at the Kansas City biotech: its CEO is also a co-founder, and in January it named another co-founder CMO, in charge of executing its clinical program in ADHD. All aspects of Myer’s experience in Big Pharma (think Novartis and Sanofi) will come into play, as she has a broad mandate over clinical research, manufacturing operations and eventually commercial functions.

→ When Depomed $DEPO relocates to new offices in Lake Forest, IL, its SVP and chief medical and scientific officer, Santosh Vetticaden, will not come with them. Instead, they will be joined by Stan Bukofzer, who’s been tapped to replace Vetticaden. Most recently at Ocera Therapeutics (now part of Mallinckrodt), Bukofzer managed its pipeline of therapies for acute and chronic liver disease, but he’s also worked in a slate of other therapeutic areas while at Abbott and Astellas. The biotech, currently based in Newark, CA, has three drugs on the market in its neurology and pain franchise. The relocation will affect more than the C-suite: the biotech expects to cut headquarters staff by 40% and save $10 million in the process.

→ Months after his ascension to chief operating officer, Scott Braunstein has quietly left Pacira Pharmaceuticals $PCRX to “pursue other opportunities.” Braunstein had spearheaded a commercial collaboration with J&J for Exparel — Pacira’s approved non-opioid treatment for post-surgical pain — before adding medical affairs and corporate development to his place. David Stack, chairman and CEO, will take over Braunstein’s duties.

Luca Rastelli has landed his first CSO job in biopharma at Kleo Pharmaceuticals, where he will play a role in selecting immunotherapy clinical candidates for IND-enabling work. In addition to leading R&D activities, Rastelli will be the “scientific external face” to Kleo’s investors, scientific peers and patients. Formerly of Merck KGaA, Rastelli has had plenty of experience with immuno-oncology at newly public BioXcel, where he led R&D for several years.

Magenta Therapeutics has lost COO Bastiano Sanna. A Novartis vet, Sanna has been with the shining Cambridge upstart since its early days, leading the operations, finance, commercial strategy and program management functions enabling the company’s work on stem cell transplantations.

→ Central nervous disease player Relmada Therapeutics has hired advisor Ottavio Vitolo full-time with the long title of SVP, head of R&D and CMO. His primary focus will be dextromethadone, or REL-1017, the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor agonist that Relmada recently got a basket of global rights for. The drug is being tested for depression, but he is tasked with expanding the portfolio to other neurological indications. A practicing psychiatrist with previous stints at Pfizer and Homology Medicines, Vitolo comes to the New York biotech from Massachusetts General Hospital.

→ In the midst of a restructuring, Amarantus has appointed investment banker Barney Monte as its interim COO/CFO and promoted Brian Harvey to chief regulatory adviser. Monte will assist the capital raise that Amarantus badly needs. But the New York company wants to show it’s still serious about the orphan neurologic, regenerative medicine and ophthalmic therapies that it’s developing through its subsidiaries. Its advisor Harvey, a former FDA staffer who held senior roles at both Pfizer and Sanofi, seems just the person to make the point.

→ Beltsville, MD-based NextCure has poached Kevin Heller from Incyte to be its CMO, while welcoming Steve Cobourn as the new CFO. Steeped in clinical oncology for the past 20 years, Heller brings knowledge not only from his recent stint at Incyte (where he managed monoclonal antibody development) but also a lengthy run at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Meanwhile Cobourn, jumping from Vaccinex, will be responsible for growing the operation built upon an immunotherapy discovery tech.  

→ Flush with cash from a $100 million mega-round, Tmunity has brought on a manufacturing expert to hone its patient-specific T cell immunotherapies. Jason Krentz joins the Penn-allied startup as chief technology officer and head of technical operations, having taken similar roles at Endo Pharma, Auxilium Pharma and Tengion. On top of managing process development and the facilities, he will work with partners — at Penn and beyond — to improve the manufacturing process with automation and analytical technologies. His hiring aligns with an insight CEO Usman “Oz” Azam told Endpoints News earlier: success in this field requires “embracing manufacturing and technical competencies early on. That’s been the biggest challenge for the field. Not just academic setting success, but making products.”

Bruce Wendel is the new chief business development officer at Prometic, where he will be busy scouting partnerships and licensing deals for both its small molecule and plasma-derived drug candidates. Having sat on the board for 10 years, the Bristol-Myers Squibb vet is quite familiar with the Laval, Quebec-based biotech, and its key financing strategies. He now brings a mix of BD and executive skills to the team from his days as Hepalink’s chief strategy officer and Abraxis’ last CEO (before its ultimate acquisition by Celgene).

Jackie Papkoff

→ Signifying its continued interest in microbiome R&D, Assembly Biosciences $ASMB has signed on Jackie Papkoff to drive the pipeline strategy and platform. With the formal title of SVP and CSO microbiome, Papkoff inherits several research programs in inflammatory bowel diseases with Allergan and will have authority to open up new therapeutic areas. While her background was largely in oncology, her time at J&J California Innovation Center and then Evelo Biosciences led her down the path of cancer microbiome.

→ Two biopharma vets have joined the leadership team at San Francisco-based Concentric Analgesics. Mike Royal has been hired as CMO after training in clinical roles at places like Sorrento, while Genentech vet Susan Kramer is leading the drive to market as executive VP, program management and strategy. Jumping from neurodegenerative company Annexon, Kramer said she is drawn to Concentric’s work with capsaicin in its portfolio of pain treatments.

→ Since spinning out of Irv Weissman’s lab at Stanford, Forty Seven has not had to worry much about money, and it has brought on a new CFO, Ann Rhoads, to make sure it stays that way as the company hustles its CD47-targeting antibodies through clinical development. With a background in investment banking and consulting, Rhoads has handled private and public financings as well as licensing pacts as the CFO of Zogenix.

→ As MyoKardia $MYOK carefully preps a groundbreaking trial for its genetically targeted heart drug, it has tapped Taylor Harris to oversee the numbers, infrastructure and investor relations as CFO. Joining Harris in the C-suite will be Jake Bauer, who’s been elevated to the role of chief business officer from SVP, finance and corporate development. A former banker, Harris cut his teeth in biotech at Thoratec — which makes medical devices for heart failure patients — and later Zeltiq Aesthetics.

→ Seasoned CFO Brian Posner is jumping from regenerative med maker Alliqua BioMedical to cancer fighter Cellectar Biosciences $CLRB. The Madison, WI-based biotech has a pipeline of drugs developed from its phospholipid ether drug conjugate platform, with a couple of programs in Phase II.

Gábor Illés is upping his involvement with Treos Bio, where he’s been an investor director since the company’s inception, by joining the executive team. London-based Treos is at the cusp of its first human trials, a critical point that will see it turn its attention to raising more capital and negotiating partnerships for its precision cancer vaccine portfolio. Illés was the founding partner of BXR Partners, an investment advisory group he co-founded within BXR Group, which provided some of the first funding for Treos.

Ascendis Pharma, a Sanofi-partnered rare disease player with a special focus on endocrinology, has wooed Thomas Larson from Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma America to become its own chief commercial officer. The readout of Ascendis’ $ASND Phase III trial of TransCon growth hormone for pediatric growth hormone deficiency isn’t due until early next year, but the Copenhagen-based company is already looking to prepare for commercialization. Larson had hopped around launch projects at giants like Boehringer Ingelheim and J&J before helping build the commercial structure of Marathon Pharma.

Veloxis Pharmaceuticals has appointed Morten Marott as its new CFO, tasking the former investment banker with growing the operation.

DiaMedica Therapeutics is welcoming new CFO Scott Kellen as it waves goodbye to David Gurney, who has resigned from the VP of finance post. Coming from the same role at Sun BioPharma, he will steer the financial strategy for the company as it advances its neurological and kidney disease drugs.

→ After seven years at communications firm Edelman, Kimberly White is going back inside biotech as SVP and chief communications officer of Vertex $VRTX — the same role she had during her time at Baxter.

Moderna has tapped Megan Pace to manage external relations of its ever-growing business organization. In her new job as chief corporate affairs officer, Pace will seek to translate the messenger RNA work done at the biotech unicorn to different stakeholders. It is a role that will likely blend all her skills from Agios, Vertex, Genentech and Eli Lilly, ranging from government affairs, patient advocacy, investor relations, program leadership to corporate planning.

→ Cambridge upstart Relay Therapeutics has just added several members to its leadership team. Ex-Mersana CMO Don Bergstrom is joining as EVP, head of R&D, spearheading Relay’s first therapeutic programs in oncology. Prior to that, Bergstrom was part of the translational efforts in the oncology units at Merck and Sanofi. Brian Adams of Keryx Biopharma and Tom Catinazzo of Foundation Medicine will be the new general counsel and VP of finance, respectively.

→ With human trials looming in the gene editing field, CRISPR Therapeutics $CRSP has brought on Steve Caffé to lead regulatory affairs. Caffé brings to the Zug, Switzerland biotech a packed resume featuring similar positions at Ra Pharma, Sucampo, MedImmune and Baxter among others.

→ Following almost a decade of globetrotting for Pfizer, Fredrik Wetterlundh is now head of human resources at Sobi. In addition to his international outlook, the Stockholm-based rare disease pharma especially liked Wetterlundh’s experience with company integration following M&A.

Melvin Booth has decided to retire from the board of Mallinckrodt after a five-year term as chairman, passing the title onto Ex-Shire CEO Angus Russell. Booth, who is leaving alongside Diane Gulyas, joined the UK company when it first went public and has since overseen a number of acquisitions — the most recent being rare disease drug developer Sucampo.

Rezolute has a new vice chairman on the board of directors in Hoyoung Huh, a serial adviser and consultant to biopharma companies.

→ Several months after leaving the helm of Human Longevity, Cynthia Collins is going back into the world of cell therapies — taking a board seat at Triumvira Immunologics, an Austin-based biotech tackling cancer with a T Cell-antigen coupler tech.

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Sr. Manager, Regulatory Affairs, CMC
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