After huge mega-round, CStone poaches Goldman's Richard Yeh as CFO; Both Hooper and Harper exit Amgen's revolving door
→ Weeks after closing its star-studded $260 million Series B round, CStone Pharmaceuticals has poached Goldman Sachs director Richard Yeh to manage all of that money and more. As CFO, Yeh’s duties will cover corporate financial strategies, financial reporting, risk management, funding, and IPO. Given CStone’s ambitious plan to go after frontrunners in the PD-L1 field (like Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy, Merck’s Keytruda and Novartis’ Mekinist) with its own Phase I drug candidate, Yeh is expected to contribute insight gleaned from his years leading research on both Chinese and US biotech industries. The immuno-oncology player has inked a couple of licensing pacts with US biotechs, including with Agios on ivosidenib, its newly approved treatment for advanced acute myeloid leukemia.
→ Sean Harper is joining the migration out of big biopharma and into the world of emerging biotechs. The head of R&D at Amgen has turned in his notice, 6 years after taking the senior R&D position vacated by Roger Perlmutter. We don’t know right now where he’s headed, but in a statement Amgen said the 55-year-old is leaving Amgen and “plans to pursue opportunities in the early-stage biotechnology community.” The move opens the door for David Reese, currently senior vice president of translational sciences and oncology at Amgen, to move up the ladder to Harper’s spot. He’ll now be in a position to run a group that spends about $3.5 billion on drug research, fitting into the world’s top 15 players.
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→ The revolving door at Amgen is also leading to the retirement of the global operations chief, Anthony Hooper, who is being replaced by Bristol-Myers Squibb vet Murdo Gordon. Bristol-Myers is still searching for a new chief commercial officer.
→ Gilead $GILD CEO John Milligan is out. In a completely unexpected announcement, the big biotech company reported right after the market close Wednesday evening that Milligan will remain in his position until the end of the year, as the board looks for his successor. He’s stepping down, but Milligan clearly has another career chapter in mind. “It has been an honor to work at Gilead for my entire professional career and, now that the company is on solid footing for the future, the Board and I have agreed it is a good time to turn the reins over to a new leader,” said Milligan in a statement. “I’m looking forward to a well-deserved break and will then move on to new and different opportunities.” Also out is Chairman John Martin, who preceded Milligan at the helm. He plans to leave once the new CEO arrives.
→ NanoViricides’ search for CEO Emeritus Eugene Seymour’s successor has led them to Irach Taraporewala, whose combined experience in fundraising, regulatory affairs and quality control has proven particularly appealing to a company juggling half a dozen preclinical antiviral therapies. Like Seymour, Taraporewala has previously run a company that he founded: That would be Ohr Pharma, a tiny biotech developing a wet age-related macular degeneration drug meant to rival Lucentis. Before that, he worked in regulatory affairs at Mystic Pharma and did drug development consulting for CRO Parexel.
→ Canada’s Waverley Pharma has tapped Theron Odlaug to replace outgoing CEO George Thomas. Throughout his career, which started at Baxter, Odlaud has traveled around the US for roles at Bayer and Astellas as well as several CEO posts in specialty pharma companies. Most recently, he was executive chairman at Toronto-based Impopharma. Now, instead of nasal and pulmonary drug products, he is tasked with steering Waverley’s petit pipeline of generic cancer drugs to the market.
→ Marking its first public appearance as Linical Accelovance Group, the CRO announced that Vita Lanoce — formerly COO at Accelovance — will helm the merged business. Prior to joining the company, Lanoce had held stints at Covance, Synexus and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
→ Back in the spring of 2017, Zavante CEO Ted Schroeder was steering his antibiotic Zolyd (fosfomycin for injection, or ZTI-01), planning to squeak past the goal lines at the FDA without a penny to spare of his $45 million in investor backing. The antibiotic is an old one, outside the US, and he had grabbed country rights in expectations that it would work as expected. Now, about 15 quiet months after, we heard that Nabriva $NBRV is stepping in to buy the antibiotic and hustle it to regulators — indicating that Schroeder’s old timeline and budget may have gone a little south somehow. The antibiotic is now called Contepo, and Schroeder is still in charge of getting it to the FDA. In fact, he’s taking the CEO’s job in the deal, taking the place of Colin Broom.
→ As part of his plan to put Jerusalem-based Gamida Cell on the US biotech map, CEO Julian Adams has recruited two biopharma vets to his leadership team. Tzvi Palash is taking up the COO position — exactly what he’s been doing at Protalix — bringing along some manufacturing background he earned during a stint at Israel’s ColBar LifeScience. He will be joined by VP of market access John Schick, an Allergan vet who’s jumping from Kite Pharma. Schick is tasked with planning reimbursement for the company’s cell therapies, including its cell graft NiCord, a “breakthrough therapy” currently in Phase III.
→ Orphan pediatric liver disease company Albireo $ALBO has appointed Tetraphase vet Patrick Horn to oversee the start of its first in-house Phase III trial — one put in place by his predecessor Paresh Soni. As CMO, Horn will work with Soni (who remains as a consultant to the company) to push both the lead program in progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis and other early-stage bile acid modulator assets forward. A pediatrician by training, Horn has previously helped Dyax nab an approval for a hereditary angioedema treatment.
→ Sanofi’s head of human resources Roberto Pucci is retiring after a 9-year run. The French drugmaker has brought in Caroline Luscombe from building materials company LafargeHolcim to take over.
→ Positioning itself for the commercial rollout of its first drug — a sickle cell disease treatment called Endari — Emmaus Life Sciences has appointed two new execs to watch its numbers. Seasoned life sciences investment banker Kurt Kruger joins as CFO, taking over from Willis Lee, who can now focus on his job in operations. Daniel Frey has been hired as controller.
→ Alexion vet Rebecca Frey is now COO at Cardurion Pharmaceuticals, a Boston-based upstart looking to tackle cardiovascular diseases that’s sealed a preclinical partnership with Takeda and a licensing deal with Astellas.
→ After a stint at SQZ Biotech, Shefali Agarwal is putting her fresh CMO experience to use at Epizyme $EPZM, where she will be in charge of leading the company’s EZH2 inhibitor tazemetostat out of troubled waters. Weeks ago, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech was forced to slam the brakes on any enrollment for its clinical trials of the drug for now as investigators sort out a pediatric case of secondary T-cell lymphoma. Agarwal, who honed her clinical development skills throughout a career spanning Aveo Oncology, Tesaro and Curis, will also spearhead development of Epizyme’s other assets, such as EZM8266 for sickle cell disease.
→ Less than three months into his CEO appointment at Abeona Therapeutics $ABEO, Carsten Thiel has poached a former colleague from Alexion to run its commercial ops. As chief commercial officer, Max Colao will build a team from scratch to promote Abeona’s cell and gene therapies for rare genetic diseases. Meanwhile, COO Jeff Davis will be stepping down after 10 years at the biotech. Keeping track of all the personnel changes will be Kristina Maximenko, who’s recently assumed the global head of human resources role.