Updated: Alnylam promotes longtime exec Kevin FitzGerald to CSO; Intellia Therapeutics brings on Laura Sepp-Lorenzino
→ Kevin FitzGerald has been with Alnylam since 2005, and with his experience of “leading successful teams on delivery technologies, target selection, and programs in clinic,” he’s been promoted to CSO of the company.
“Our technology is at such an exciting stage and there are so many applications for patients in need, prioritizing what we do first (and at times, what we do not do) will be a very important challenge,” said FitzGerald via email.
Alnylam has come a long way from its inception in 2002. Last August the company received the first and only ever FDA approval for the treatment of the polyneuropathy of hereditary transthyretin-mediated (hATTR) amyloidosis in adults with its RNAi therapeutic, Onpattro (patisiran) — a lipid complex injection.
“During my time at Alnylam, we have gone from RNAi is a cool and exciting possibility, to clinical proof of concept that the technology works robustly in man, to a commercial company with an approved RNAi therapeutic product with several others in Phase III trials,” said FitzGerald.
FitzGerald joined Alnylam after a stint at Bristol-Myers Squibb. When asked why he decided to hop on board with the company, FitzGerald said “It may sound made up, but from the very beginning I was looking for a technology that could change medicine. One of my mentors told me, ‘If you are going to spend a lot of time, maybe years of your life… dedicated to working on a problem, make sure at the other end of it, something big is the result.’ I saw RNAi as an evolutionary conserved mechanism, that if we could harness it, had the potential to change how we treat human disease. I believed way back then, but after all these years… and now an approved product, I am more excited than ever and believe we are at the cusp of realizing what RNAi therapeutics could do for human disease.”
In addition to FitzGerald’s promotion, Alnylam has appointed Kelley Boucher as the company’s senior vice president, chief human resources officer. Boucher has a background of over 15 years of human resources and talent acquisition/management experience in the biotech sector. Before Alnylam, Boucher had a stint at Abiomed. And before that, she spent 10 years at Shire.
“This transition, along with the advancement of the Company’s robust and diverse pipeline, will be enabled by continued investment in global growth, scalability, and people development,” Boucher said. “I hope to help foster this growth by ensuring that we are an employer of choice and that we continue to cultivate an inclusive and diverse culture conducive to forward thinking and innovation.”
→ CRISPR/Cas9 technology pioneer Intellia Therapeutics welcomed Laura Sepp-Lorenzino as its new executive vice president and CSO. Sepp-Lorenzino joins the company after a stint at Vertex Pharmaceuticals as vice president, head of nucleic acid therapies, research leadership and a member of the external innovation team. Prior to Vertex, Sepp-Lorenzino developed and implemented the hepatic infectious disease strategy at Alnylam and helped the company strengthen its RNA pipeline. Before that, she spent 14 years at Merck advancing RNAi as a novel therapeutic modality.
→ Audentes, which is hoping to rival Sarepta Therapeutics with its gene therapy for DMD, has unveiled new members of its senior executive team. The San Francisco-based company has hired former Sangamo executive Edward Conner as CMO, and promoted Fulvio Mavilio to senior VP of translational science. Meanwhile, Audentes’ CMO Suyash Prasad and chief technology officer John Gray are leaving the company.
→ David Epstein-led cancer upstart Black Diamond Therapeutics has announced the appointment of Brent Hatzis-Schoch as COO and general counsel of the company. Hatzis-Schoch has over 20 years of experience in legal affairs at commercial and development-stage pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. He joins Black Diamond after stints at Radius Health and Merz Pharma in Frankfurt, Germany.
In addition, Black Diamond has made new appointments to its senior leadership team in preparing to enter its lead program into the clinic next year. These appointments include: Karsten Witt — who was involved in the clinical development of NSCLC drug Tarceva — as senior vice president of clinical development, Nigel Waters as vice president of preclinical development, AstraZeneca vet Carl Cook, vice president of clinical operations — credited for leading pivotal studies for Iressa — and Mersana vet Sanna Belorusets as vice president of finance.
The company was launched last December and earlier this year, the company had raised $85 million in a Series B round, bringing the funds raised by the first company out of Versant’s Ridgeline discovery engine in Basel to $105 million.
→ Gilead chief Daniel O’Day has been making quite a few changes to his executive team and now he’s axing his EVP of worldwide commercial ops chief Laura Hamill — who arrived less than a year ago from Amgen and will be receiving $1.75 million in severance upon her formal departure from the company July 1 — and bringing Johanna Mercier on board. The 10-year Bristol-Myers vet has been captain on large markets in the US, Europe and Japan. Mercier will tackle Gilead’s HIV market — which has faced heavy criticism for the price of its drugs — and its cell therapy pipeline.
“She is a talented leader with a deep understanding of the pharmaceutical industry, across therapeutic markets and geographies,” noted O’Day, “as well as a proven ability to input the commercial perspective into development strategies.”
→ Atara Biotherapeutics CEO Isaac Ciechanover made a surprise decision to leave the company in January and it’s been announced Tuesday that Novartis vet Pascal Touchon will officially join the company June 24. At Novartis, Touchon worked within oncology as global head, cell & gene and as a member of the oncology executive committee, where he was in charge of the global rollout of Kymriah. Previously, Touchon has worked at Servier, Sanofi and Glaxo.
Ciechanover has joined the board of SQZ Biotechnologies, a cell therapy biotech prepping a clinical entry. “SQZ’s innovative cell therapy platform and the therapeutics the company is creating have great promise for patients and can impact multiple diseases,” he said. “Coupled with their advances in efficient cell therapy manufacturing, this is a truly unique opportunity, and I am enthusiastic about being a part of the team at this pivotal stage.”
→ After hopping out of Atara Biotherapeutics, Dietmar Berger has joined Sanofi. Berger will be the head of development and will oversee the company’s clinical portfolio across all therapy areas and help the company bring transformative new medicines to patients. Prior to joining Atara, Berger was the head of development for Genentech’s hematology and oncology unit and is credited with playing a lead role for top programs like Gazyva, Cotellic, Alecensa, Tecentriq and Hemlibra. And before Genentech, he was at Bayer and Amgen for over 16 years.
Sanofi CSO John Reed is shifting away from major league partners like Regeneron and Alnylam to focus on the company’s own oncology pipeline.
→ Juvenescence’s new venture, Souvien Therapeutics — which is creating innovative medicines to address neurodegenerative diseases by targeting the epigenetic underpinnings of neurodegeneration — announced two new appointments. Jeffrey Sprouse — who led preclinical programs at both Pfizer and Lundbeck — will join the company as its CEO and Howard Federoff — professor of neurology at the University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine and former CEO of UCI Health System — as its chair.
→ While Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals recently updated plans for its spin-off company, it also put a full management team in place. Matthew Harbaugh, current president of Mallinckrodt’s specialty generics business and former CFO of the company is projected to become president and CEO of the new company upon completion of the separation. Eric Slusser — who has formerly served as CFO for companies such as Express Scripts, Gentiva Health Services and Centene Corporation — is projected to serve as CFO. In addition, the anticipated board of directors of the new speciality generics company will consist of nominated independent chairman James Sulat — who has served as CEO of both Maxygen and Memory Pharmaceuticals — and nominated chair of the audit committee of the new board of directors Michael Atieh — who was the former executive vice president and CFO of Ophthotech Corporation.
→ RedHill BioPharma — a biopharmaceutical company focused on gastrointestinal diseases — has appointed June Almenoff as its first CSO. Almenoff has served in various roles, including stints at Furiex and GSK. At Furiex — acquired by Actavis, now Allergan — Almenoff worked as president and CMO of the company where the lead product, Viberzi, was approved by the FDA in 2015 for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D).
→ Cerevel therapeutics expands their executive team with three new appointments, which include John Renger as CSO, Kathy Yi as CFO and Ken DiPietro as chief human resources officer.
“Cerevel Therapeutics was purpose-built to focus on the unique needs of people impacted by devastating nervous system diseases—a model that is attracting business leaders with diverse backgrounds from across the industry,” said Tony Coles, executive chairman of Cerevel Therapeutics. “John, Kathy, and Ken each have a proven track record in their respective areas of expertise and will be instrumental in accelerating our pursuit of leading-edge solutions that can meaningfully impact patients’ lives.”
→ MiMedx — a company specialized in wound care — has adopted a comprehensive plan — developed by the company’s largest shareholders, Prescience Point Capital Management — to refresh the composition of its board of directors. This comes after the completion of the company’s audit committee’s independent investigation into alleged wrongdoing by the prior senior management team and engagement of BDO USA as the company’s new independent registered public accounting firm.
“It is time to begin the Board transition and refreshment process. […] With the Audit Committee’s investigation complete and a plan to refresh the Board in place, the Company is now in a position to focus on its future and enhance its business, for the benefit of all stakeholders,” said Charles Evans, chairman of the board.
The company says that under the plan, “six new directors, including MiMedx’s new CEO, Timothy Wright, would be added to the board. The refreshment plan includes the appointment of three of Prescience Point’s nominees, including M. Kathleen Behrens Wilsey, as the new chairwoman of the board, as well as K. Todd Newton, who is expected to become the chairman of the audit committee after the company’s 2019 annual meeting of shareholders. Other appointments/nominations for election to the board include Richard Barry and James Bierman.
An earlier version of the story did not include appointments at Black Diamond Therapeutics