Amarin fishes for another CFO as downsizing takes hold; CureVac makes a deal, then lines up Novartis exec to lead development
→ Mired in flagging sales for Vascepa, the harsh realities of the current climate in biotech have hit Amarin as they slice 40% of the workforce — the majority of those cuts coming from the US commercial team. And the resignation of CFO Michael Kalb has led Amarin to install Tom Reilly as his replacement, effective June 20. Reilly had been finance chief at Cara Therapeutics since October 2020; after 14 years of financial roles at Novartis, he was Allergan’s head of finance for the US general medicines unit from 2017-20. Under CEO Karim Mikhail, who succeeded John Thero last year, Amarin hopes the job reduction will save them $100 million in the next year.
→ The same day that CureVac inked a small deal to buy Frame Cancer Therapeutics for €32 million ($34 million), the German mRNA player also disclosed that chief development officer Klaus Edvardsen is on his way out on June 30. Big Pharma vet Myriam Mendila will take over on Feb. 1, 2023, and Ulrike Gnad-Vogt — CureVac’s SVP area head oncology — will bridge the gap in Edvardsen’s place. Mendila’s oncology chops will come in handy here in light of the buyout: The worldwide head of medical affairs and CMO, oncology at Novartis since 2017, she also led global medical affairs at Roche and US medical affairs at Genentech.
“The addition of Frame’s technology and talent to CureVac’s oncology research complements our ability to identify and validate promising neoantigens for our mRNA cancer vaccine programs,” CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas said of the M&A deal.
→ As Edward Conner becomes CMO of Third Harmonic Bio, an inflammatory disease biotech with $155 million worth of funding in the hopper, chief Natalie Holles said in a statement that she’s “thrilled to be working with Ed again.” Conner served as site lead and division head of medical and development at Audentes (now Astellas Gene Therapies) when Holles was CEO. Conner makes this quick return to Peer Review after taking the CMO gig at Locanabio in July 2021.
→ With its lead program in Phase I/II trials for ENPP1 and ABCC6 deficiencies, Inozyme has tapped Kurt Gunter as CMO. For the last year, Gunter took on the roles of CMO, cell therapy and head of regulatory affairs at Athenex, feeling the pinch of the bear market with a budget overhaul that included an undisclosed number of layoffs. A Hospira vet, Gunter was the medical chief at Kuur Therapeutics before he joined Athenex last spring.
Consequently, Darrel Cohen has answered the call to succeed Gunter as CMO, cell therapy at Athenex after a year as the medical chief of Biosight. Cohen was VP of late-phase clinical development at Pfizer Oncology, but left his post in 2019 to lead clinical development at EUSA Pharma.
→ San Francisco-based Better Therapeutics is handing over the reins of the company to Frank Karbe, who will begin as president and CEO on July 5. In the interim, current CEO and co-founder Kevin Appelbaum will continue to serve in the role. Karbe makes his way to Better from Myovant, where he was president and CFO. Earlier in his career, Karbe was EVP and CFO of Exelixis and worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs.
→ As Akili Interactive preps commercial launch for its ADHD video game therapy EndeavorRx in the fall, the company is making some room on its leadership team for commercial veteran Matt Franklin as president and COO to help pave the way. Franklin most recently served as general manager of the precision oncology business at Exact Sciences and before that, was chief commercial officer at Thrive Earlier Detection. Earlier in his career, Franklin was CBO for ArcherDX and SVP of global marketing and clinical product strategy at Foundation Medicine.
→ Cellectis natural killer partner Cytovia, which took the SPAC route to Nasdaq with Isleworth Healthcare Acquisition in April, has pegged Luca Scavo as CFO and James Priour as chief product officer. Peer Review just reported last week that Scavo bolted Evelo Biosciences after a year as finance chief, and he’s a Roche/Genentech vet who was CFO of Roche Diagnostics North America from 2019-21. Priour spent 11 years at Amgen before his appointment as SVP, commercial at Zymeworks in April 2020, eventually earning a promotion to chief commercial officer.
→ Bob Nelsen is dishing out several promotions at ARCH Venture Partners: Ari Nowacek (to partner); Sean Kendall (to partner, Europe); Corey Ritter (to principal); and Nilay Thakar (also to principal). ARCH is also bringing Olivia Zetter into the fold as a strategic advisor and venture partner. Zetter pivots to ARCH after leading government affairs and AI strategy at Resilience, which backed up the Brinks truck for a hefty $625 million Series D this week.
→ It’s been a whirlwind for Hubert Chen, so let’s break it all down: As 2021 drew to a close, Chen stepped down as CMO of Metacrine to take the same job at ADARx Pharmaceuticals. But another change of scenery awaits, this time as CSO and president of Forte Biosciences, which has been reduced to a pianissimo after a flop with its lead atopic dermatitis candidate resulted in plummeting shares. Before he was with Metacrine, Chen was chief scientific and medical officer for Pfenex.
Incidentally, ADARx has lined up Andrew Seacat as head of toxicology, joining the RNA editing brigade at the San Diego biotech after his time at Zogenix as senior director, pharmacology and toxicology. A former principal scientist at Allergan, Seacat has also worked at La Jolla Pharmaceutical as senior director, preclinical development.
→ Don’t call him an underdog: Rudy Howard has been appointed as CFO of Houston-based metastatic disease player Aravive. Howard most recently held the same position at vTv Therapeutics and SciQuest, and he has also served as SVP and CFO at MDS Pharma Services.
→ Led by ex-Forty Seven chief Mark McCamish and having secured a $77 million Series A in January 2021, San Diego oncolytic virus biotech IconOVir has appointed John Huynh as its first chief technology officer. Before his recent year-long run as SVP of technical operations at Ring Therapeutics, Huynh was PTC Therapeutics’ VP of gene therapy technical operations.
→ A couple weeks ago, the FDA lifted the partial clinical hold on Alpine Immune Sciences’ combo trial with davoceticept and Keytruda, and the Mitch Gold-led biotech will now welcome Andrew Sandler as CMO on Aug. 17. Sandler had been CMO of Kiadis, which Sanofi bought for $358 million in November 2020 to beef up its NK capabilities. A former oncology exec at Bayer, Sandler was also CMO at Spectrum Pharmaceuticals and Dendreon. The FDA put up the stop sign on the trial in March after a patient death that was “attributed to cardiogenic shock.”
→ Over at San Carlos, CA-based cancer biotech Apexigen, William Duke has signed on as CFO. Duke joins Apexigen from the recently shuttered Kaleido Biosciences, where he also served as CFO. He has also served in the same position at Pulmatrix and Valeritas.
→ ADC-minded Emergence Therapeutics, trying to challenge the Astellas/Seagen drug Padcev with a Series A nearing $100 million back in December, has appointed Hatem Azim as CMO. Most recently, Azim was head of oncology, early clinical development at French pharma Pierre Fabre. Before that, he was VP, head of clinical development at Innate Pharma.
→ The Omicron variant forced the NIH to pull the plug on enrollment for the ACTIV-2 Phase III trial involving SAB Biotherapeutics’ polyclonal antibody, and three months later, the Sioux Falls, SD biotech has named Alexandra Kropotova as CMO. Kropotova ended her eight-year association with Sanofi by serving as VP, strategy & strategic planning head, North American medical affairs before leaving in 2016 for Teva, where she was therapeutic area head, global specialty R&D.
→ Ophthalmology startup Aurion Biotech, which snagged a nice $120 million earlier this year in a bid to scale cell therapy for a form of blindness, has waved in Michael Goldstein as president and CMO. Prior to his new role, Goldstein was president and CMO of Ocular Therapeutix and CMO of Applied Genetic Technologies Corp. Earlier in his career, Goldstein was with Eleven Biotherapeutics, where he held a number of roles, including CMO and VP of clinical research.
→ While Gilead celebrates its 10-year anniversary in Asia, the company has brought aboard Dustin Haines as VP, general manager, Asia 5. Haines will be responsible for driving the business development of HIV, viral hepatitis including hepatitis B, C and D, as well as Gilead’s commitment to enhance public health and community impact in the Asia 5 markets: Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia. Haines hails from Next Science, where he was CCO. Prior to that, Haines spent over a decade at ViiV Healthcare (president and general manager for Japan) and GSK.
→ Liver disease-focused Inipharm has brought on Chuhan Chung as CMO. Chung joins the company from Gilead, where he served as executive director and global development lead and was responsible for clinical studies in NASH and primary sclerosing cholangitis. Prior to Gilead, Chung was an associate professor at Yale University School of Medicine, section of gastroenterology & hepatology.
→ Taking aim at extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA) to treat cancer, Boundless Bio has introduced Sara Weymer as VP of clinical operations. From 2016-21, Weymer led clinical operations at Fate Therapeutics, whose iPSC-derived natural killer therapies have run into durability issues that sound the alarm bells but don’t necessarily spell doom. Earlier in her career, Weymer was a senior clinical trial manager at Biogen.
→ AAV gene therapy outfit Applied Genetic Technologies Corporation has two appointments to announce this week: Eduardo Jacobo as SVP of GMP manufacturing and David Jacobs as SVP of clinical research and medical affairs. Prior to joining AGTC, Jacobo ran GMP gene manufacturing at Sangamo, and he has also held numerous manufacturing positions at Amgen and Eli Lilly. Jacobs comes to AGTC after leading clinical programs at Biogen and Daiichi Sankyo.
→ On the cusp of a Phase III trial with its dendritic cell therapy ITI-1000 for glioblastoma multiforme, Immunomic Therapeutics has selected Brian Stamper as VP, cell therapy operations. A veteran of Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca Biologics, Stamper had a short run at Lonza before his most recent post as senior director of manufacturing at Kite.
→ CNS-focused Neuraxpharm Group has tapped Alfredo Barón as the new country manager of Neuraxpharm Spain, taking over for Javier Mercadé — who has been appointed head of growth markets. Barón joins Neuraxpharm from Almirall, where he most recently served as EVP of global commercial operations and CCO. Before his most recent role at Almirall, Barón was director of sales and marketing manager, corporate managing director for south and eastern Europe and EVP and managing director of Europe for the company.
→ Data management outfit Dotmatics, which was snapped up by Insightful Science last March, has named Larry Samuelson as chief legal officer and Neil Frye as chief people officer. Samuelson most recently served as SVP, general counsel and corporate secretary of Cvent, while Frye is the former chief people officer of Alto Pharmacy and has previously held roles at Dropbox, Google and Accenture.
→ Duarte, CA-based Prolacta Bioscience has reeled in David Steinberg as CFO. Steinberg joins with experience from previous stints at Jefferies (managing director) and Deutsche Bank under his belt.
→ The board of directors at NRx Pharmaceuticals has recruited Seth Van Voorhees as CFO and treasurer. Van Voorhees hops aboard from PDS Biotechnology, where he also wore the CFO hat. Prior to that, he served a 10-year gig as CFO for Research Frontiers and for American Pacific. Earlier in his career, Van Voorhees served at Merrill Lynch, UBS Warburg and Wasserstein Perella.
→ Cambridge, UK-based Metrion Biosciences has appointed Benedetta Montagnini as head of European business development. Montagnini previously served as business development manager at Eurofins Discovery and DiscoveRx. Before that, Montagnini was account manager for the industrial bioprocessing division at Invitrogen.
→ Putting on a united front last month with other Duchenne drugmakers on why safety problems have dogged the indication, Sarepta has added Michael Chambers and Kathryn Boor to its board of directors. Chambers co-founded and was the longtime CEO of Aldevron, and Boor is the dean of Cornell’s graduate school as well as vice provost for graduate education.
→ Bahija Jallal’s Immunocore has appointed Siddharth Kaul to the board of directors. The retired Kaul last served as group treasurer and head of business planning and analysis at Novartis in 2021, where he spent 17 years of his career in such roles as CFO, pharma Europe and CFO, pharma US.
→ Like Hall of Fame college basketball coach Roy Williams subbing out an entire lineup, Brooklyn ImmunoTherapeutics is putting new board members on the floor after last week’s CEO change. Interim chief Matt Angel leads the list of names, followed by Exacis Biotherapeutics CEO Gregory Fiore, Purchase Capital founder Nicholas Singer and Homer City Holdings chairman and CEO Bill Wexler. Gone are Erich Mohr, Dennis Langer, Heather Redman, and Erin Enright, effective June 5.
→ With billionaire Ric Kayne suspending his attempt to overhaul the board of directors, Seattle Alzheimer’s biotech Athira Pharma is moving forward with a new scientific advisory board. Chaired by Athira CMO Hans Moebius, the board will consist of Anton Porsteinsson, John Olichney, Marwan Sabbagh, Lon Schneider, Pierre Tairot and Paul Winner.
→ Ambrx Biopharma has boosted its board of directors with Blueprint Medicines SVP of global medical affairs Janet Loesberg. A 12-year Bristol Myers Squibb vet, Loesberg was briefly the VP, head of portfolio and project management, R&D for J&J’s Janssen.
→ Robert Hariri’s Celularity has elected former Kite head of US commercial Diane Parks to the board of directors. Parks adds the cell therapy biotech to her list of board responsibilities, which includes posts at Calliditas Therapeutics, CTI BioPharma and Kura Oncology.
→ Life Sciences Advisory managing partner Saira Ramasastry has been given a seat on the board of directors at Mirum Pharmaceuticals. This is the latest in a string of current board appointments for Ramasastry at Vir, Glenmark, Day One Biopharmaceuticals and Akouos.
→ Cystic fibrosis player Sionna Therapeutics has made room for Paul Clancy on the board of directors. The former CFO of Alexion (2017-19) and Biogen (2007-17) is on the boards of Incyte, Exact Sciences and Xilio Therapeutics.
→ Jennifer Zachary has clinched a spot on the board of directors at Rockville, MD-based Regenxbio, which has been in a patent squabble over Zolgensma with Novartis. Zachary has been Merck’s general counsel since April 2018.