Aimmune signs Jayson Dallas on to succeed retiring CEO; Eduardo Bravo leaves TiGenix in final chapter of Takeda buyout
→ Ex-Ultragenyx commercial chief Jayson Dallas is taking the helm at Aimmune Therapeutics $AIMT — the company best known for its peanut allergy drug — well in time for a comfortable transition with the outgoing CEO, Stephen Dilly. During his three-year stint at Ultragenyx, Dallas built up the commercial operations, including sales, marketing, reimbursement and new product planning, leading up to the launch of the its first two rare disease products, which both won approval last year. This marks his second job at a biotech, after cutting his teeth at Pfizer, Novartis and then Roche/Genentech. He will now work on regulatory filings for AR101 with Dilly, who’s staying on as a special adviser until the end of the year. Dilly announced last November that he’s retiring to spend more time with family.
→ Just ahead of a data presentation, Cambridge, MA-based Imara has tapped seasoned investor/exec Rahul Ballal as its new CEO. Having led the company to PhIIa studies, founder James McArthur will now help steer strategy as a board director. Imara’s inhibitor approach to sickle cell disease has won the backing of New Enterprise Associates, Pfizer Venture Investments and Bay City Capital, among others. Channelling his business development experience at Northern Biologics and Flexion Therapeutics, as well as his VC background from Versant Ventures and Novartis Venture Fund, Ballal is expected to ramp up the operations while pushing its PDE9 inhibitor IMR-687 through mid- and late-stage development.
→ Given the drama and buzz surrounding the $69 billion Takeda/Shire union, it’s easy to forget that Takeda has agreed to buy stem cell therapy developer TiGenix, too, in the beginning of the year. But things are quietly progressing, with news out this week that longtime CEO Eduardo Bravo is officially departing. Takeda senior director Sebastian Wehle will replace him on the board, while running the business on a day-to-day basis with the help of CFO Claudia D’Augusta. Formerly of Nycomed, Wehle has been leading the manufacturing and supply activities for Alofisel, the Crohn’s disease therapy TiGenix developed that earned a swift European approval.
→ After a rocky seven-year ride, Peter Traber is bowing out as president, CEO and CMO of Galectin $GALT. While still touting Phase III plans for its NASH drug, the company acknowledges that it’s considering “strategic alternatives.” The person overseeing all this will be Harold Shlevin, the COO who worked with Traber for most of his tenure. Traber joined the Norcross, GA-based company after leading Baylor College of Medicine and University of Pennsylvania Medical School, looking for advances in his fields of gastroenterology and hepatology. Yet up to the most recent PhIIb study, Galectin’s drug has not yielded any positive results.
→ Having helped run H3 Biomedicine’s cancer genomics-based discovery programs since being recruited as chief data sciences officer in 2011, AstraZeneca vet Lihua Yu has been elevated to the president seat. Her new role covers the overall scientific and business direction at the Eisai subsidiary, which now has three preclinical programs in the pipeline.
→ Metabolon is ushering a new era in company history as its founding CEO John Ryals retires, giving way to Rohan Hastie, who’s being promoted from the role of chief business officer. Through his seat on the board, Ryals will continue to push the Research Triangle Park, NC-based company towards applications of its metabolomics platform in research, drug discovery and development, diagnostics and therapy response.
→ Charging on in the emergent field of microbiome drugs, Finch Therapeutics has welcomed two members to its C-suite. Ulrich Thienel joins as CMO, overseeing clinical development for Finch’s two microbiota platforms; new CFO Gregory Perry is responsible for financial and operational leadership. Both execs boast of a slate of biopharma roles on their resume: While Thienel may not be an expert in the microbiome, he brings two decades of experience filing INDs, NDAs and BLAs for big pharma companies in various therapeutic areas; Perry cut his teeth at biotechs like Novelion Therapeutics and ImmunoGen, notably orchestrating several IPOs. Takeda-partnered Finch is starting with a Clostridium difficile program — a popular target that’s attracted a number of rivals.
→ Richard Tajak is stepping down from the CFO role at NantKwest, which has swiftly appointed its chief accounting officer and corporate controller Sonja Nelson to fill his shoes. The changeover at the cell therapy company $NK comes on the same day that Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire behind NantKwest and its parent company Nantworks, announced he’s seeking an IPO for a third spinoff called Nant — which will focus on cancer drugs. Tajak had been with the biotech for two years.
→ Gearing up for a second shot at approval — and subsequent launch — for its lead drug Firdapse, Catalyst Pharmaceuticals $CPRX has tapped Lundbeck vet Daniel Brennan to be its chief commercial officer. Execs of the Coral Gables, FL-based biotech like his experience working with orphan, neurological drugs, most recently as COO at Edge Therapeutics, tasked with pre-commercialization activities for Edge’s product. Catalyst had previously been snubbed at the FDA on the basis of an incomplete study; it’s hoping the new batch of data, showing Firdapse’s effect in treating Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, will win them an approval and put Brennan to work.
→ On the heels of announcing its plans for a $100 million IPO, Autolus has appointed Actelion vet Andrew Oakley as CFO and SVP. Before joining the London-based biotech, which is considered a frontrunner in the race for next-gen CAR-Ts, Oakley held the same position at Sosei for over a year.
→ After a year doubling as CBO and CFO at freshly public Arcus Biosciences $RCUS, Jennifer Jarrett is getting promoted to the COO post (while remaining as chief financial officer). The newly created position covers a broad mandate: from finance, investor relations, corporate communications, business and corporate development to strategic planning and human resources — all things that Jarrett has gotten involved in since joining the Hayward, CA-based company. A veteran investment banker, she made the jump to biotech fairly recently at Medivation just before Pfizer bought it out.
→ Manufacturing expertise is crucial to any company serious about T cell therapies, and Triumvira Immunologics is highlighting that through hiring Donna Rill as chief technology officer. Rill, who started out managing cell and gene therapy labs in hospitals, is now expected to guide Triumvira’s entry into the clinic with her technology development and manufacturing experience. The biotech, which is headquartered in Austin with research facilities in Ontario, is hoping to commence Phase I/II studies for a CD19 program in 2019.
→ As Taiwan’s JHL Biotech preps several of its biologics for late-stage trials and embraces the capital markets, it is bringing on new CFO Ellis Chu to help with re-listing and other fundraising activities. A former investment banker jumping from VC merchant bank Ion Pacific, Chu’s appointment comes a month after JHL raised $106 million in a convertible bond issuance, bringing its total haul to $320 million.
→ A flurry of personnel activity is sweeping through autoimmune upstart Anokion, with Deborah Geraghty joining as CBO, co-founder Stephan Kontos being promoted from VP of research to CSO, and Tony Rossomando recruited as VP of technical operations. In Geraghty, CEO John Hohneker says, Anokion gets a seasoned exec attuned to pipeline development and strategic transactions. Between stints at Infinity Pharma, Aileron and Dimension as well as her founding role in an orphan drug accelerator, Geraghty has dealt with most of the tasks now under her purview: business and corporate development, strategic planning, program management and communications. Meanwhile, Kontos takes over from Jeff Hubbell, who’s relinquishing both his C-suite job and his board chairmanship, carving out a place as chief scientific adviser. Flexion CEO Michael Clayman is stepping in to lead.
→ Following a five-year run at the top of Biogen’s IT department, Prakash Pandian is heading up information systems for contract research, development and manufacturing organization AMRI. As chief information officer, he will continue what he’s been doing since starting at Millipore years ago: integrating business and technologies.
→ As Cancer Genetics $CGI explores expanding its biopharma and discovery business to complement its diagnostic base, it has hired Michael McCartney as chief commercial officer, tasked also with overseeing BD initiatives. McCartney was CEO of an early-stage life science service provider called SciKon Innovation.
→ Under pressure from investors over its lackluster performance, Allergan has now recruited Abbott Laboratories’ former EVP of finance, Thomas Freyman, to its board. Patrick O’Sullivan, meanwhile, is on his way out as the company continues with what it calls its “refreshment” process for the board.
→ Having proven her acumen as general manager of Takeda in Turkey, Gamze Yüceland has been appointed to lead the fast-growing Canadian operation for the Japanese drugmaker. She will initially focus on gastroenterology and oncology, the two core therapeutic areas Takeda has circled for the region.
→ In an effort to “grow through strategic hires,” anti-aging startup resTORbio $TORC has poached Kerry Russell from Novartis to become its VP of clinical development. Russell will have broad authority over the direction and execution of the Boston-based company’s TORC1 inhibitor program.
→ Applied Genetic Technologies Corporation $AGTC is boosting its clinical team with two new hires to advance the rare disease gene therapies it’s developing. Lanita Scott — an alum of big name companies like Genentech, Regeneron and Allergan — will be VP of clinical research and medical affairs, while ex-Vertex staffer Karen Carroll takes the title of VP, clinical development operations.
→ Matthew Beck is now VP of investor relations at CureVac, the German mRNA therapeutics biotech backed by the Gates Foundation.
→ Relieved of all his duties at TiGenix, Eduardo Bravo is keeping busy as the new chairman of Vivet Therapeutics’ board, guiding the development of its gene therapies for rare metabolic disease.
→ Now that the dust has settled on Juno’s sale, former CSO Hyam Levitsky is finding some time to sit on the board of Replimmune, a Woburn, MA-based biotech working on oncolytic immunotherapies.