Peer Review

Andrew Ritter gathers the reins as his company preps PhIII; Solid Bio co-founder Gilad Hayeem retires

Andrew Ritter

→ The series of executive hiring at Ritter Pharmaceuticals $RTTR has culminated in co-founder Andrew Ritter’s appointment as CEO. Michael Step is stepping down after four years at the helm, but will continue offering guidance as a consultant and board director. This the company says, is all in preparation for the launch of a confirmatory Phase III study that they hope would put their lactose intolerance drug at the FDA’s door. In a Phase IIb/III study reported last year, the company was able to claim a win after changing the primary endpoint and recalculating the data. With the tiny biotech’s fate resting on the drug’s success (or not), Ritter, who now holds both the president and chief executive titles and leads new colleagues including CFO John Beck and R&D head Diane Plotkin, has big tasks ahead of him.  

→ As CEO Vipin Garg gets ready to leave Neos Therapeutics $NEOS, the Dallas-based biotech has found his successor in Jerry McLaughlin, a seasoned commercial exec who’s recently had his first taste of the chief executive role at AgeneBio. From Garg, McLaughlin inherits a public, commercial operation — with three ADHD products on the market — which he is expected to grow. The Endo Pharma vet will also be responsible for shepherding Neos’ preclinical assets for gastrointestinal and central nervous system diseases to clinical development. If the past is any indication, McLaughlin might also have to field buyout offers, including some from stubborn bidder PDL BioPharma. Garg will assist with the transition through the end of July.

Andre Turenne

→ Having evaluated Voyager Therapeutics $VYGR from the other side of the table, Andre Turenne is taking up the invitation to be its next president and CEO. Co-founder Steve Paul is leaving him with a Phase II-ready gene therapy program for Parkinson’s disease — which showed promise in early data from a small trial — and a slate of preclinical gene therapy candidates for other neurological indications. A few of those programs are partnered with AbbVie and Sanofi Genzyme, something that Turenne will have no trouble picking up given the extensive business development background he’s developed over 12 years at Sanofi.

→ Just days after announcing his official departure from Takeda-acquired TiGenix, Eduardo Bravo has landed his next CEO job at Nordic Nanovector. In this new role he will shift his focus from stem cell therapies to hematological cancers, but lean on his previous experience in corporate and product development. Nordic Nanovector’s lead drug, Belalutin, is an antibody radionuclide conjugate that targets CD37 for the treatment of recurrent NHL, currently in early-stage studies. While the company headquarters are in Oslo, Bravo will be based in London.

Solid Bio $SLDB is wrapping two tumultuous quarters at the biotech with a high-level switchup. Co-founder and president Gilad Hayeem is retiring, concentrating the powers in the hands of CEO Ilan Ganot, who also helped found the company on a quest to find a gene therapy cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This comes on the heels of the good news that the FDA has lifted a clinical hold three months after issuing it, apparently happy with the changes Solid Bio is putting in place in anticipation of future adverse events. The company attempted to soften the blow by announcing that industry vet Martin Freed is joining the board, but might do little to appease alarmed investors.

William Welch has resigned from precision cancer meds company Trovagene $TROV for personal reasons after two years in the CEO and director seats. Thomas Adams, the longtime chairman who briefly held the reins before Welch was hired, is once again stepping in as the interim CEO. While the company searches for a leader, Adams said, the team will march on with ongoing combo trials of lead compound PCM-075.

→ Following a round of layoffs that saw 57% of its staff go, Prothena $PRTA CFO Tran Nguyen is doubling as COO. The company was vague about what this newly created role entails, except what CEO Gene Kinney describes as “strategic contribution and leadership.” Still reeling from a damaging Phase IIb implosion of its lead drug, Prothena has turned its attention to its other neuroscience programs.

→ Big Pharma vet Jessie English has decided to lend her drug discovery expertise to the young team at Tilos Therapeutics working on anti-LAP antibodies. As CSO, she has a sizable mandate to manage the preclinical work on lead drug TSL-01 while investigating the therapeutic potential of Tilos’ immune regulation tech beyond oncology. The foray into fibrosis and autoimmune diseases might be new to English, who spent her years at Merck KGaA, Merck and Pfizer focused on cancer drugs. Her expertise conducting preclinical translational studies for clinical programs — notably at Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School — will be a “significant asset,” said Barbara Fox, founder and CEO of the Cambridge, MA-based biotech.

Sanofi has appointed Jean-Baptiste Chasseloup de Chatillon as EVP and CFO, succeeding Jérôme Contamine, the longtime exec who will retire at the end of the year. Chasseloup de Chatillon jumps from French automotive maker PSA Group, where he held the same positions.

→ With a Phase III study happening in earnest, Onconova Therapeutics $ONTX is giving CMO Steven Fruchtman more responsibilities. Freshly promoted to president, Fruchtman will now oversee the entire product portfolio and assist CEO Ramesh Kumar in running other areas of the company. The plan is to hire another CMO, but until then Fruchtman — a hematologist/oncologist by training — will maintain his duties there.

→ Waltham, MA-based Eloxx Pharma $ELOX has poached two execs with thick resumes to join its C-suite. COO Greg Williams was most recently at Radius Health, where, as with The Medicines Co, he led the development and eventual approval of a drug. Eloxx execs are counting on his regulatory experience as they advance lead drug candidate, ELX-02, into Phase 2 clinical trials in cystic fibrosis and cystinosis. David Snow, another Radius Health staffer who’s been brought on as CBO to scout global collaborations opportunities, was a 15-year AstraZeneca vet who divided his tenure between its US and China operations.

→ Still hunting for a permanent CEO, Adicet Bio has recruited Stewart Abbot to oversee its pipeline of allogeneic cell therapies as CSO. Abbot jumps from immunotherapy player Fate Therapeutics, which, combined with his previous role in Celgene’s cellular therapeutics unit likely made him a standout for the role.

Richard Malamut is the new CMO at Braeburn, joining the biotech as it looks for a turnaround on its new opioid addiction treatment. Once a frontrunner in the rush to get new drugs for opioid use disorder to the market — alongside Indivior and Alkermes — Braeburn received a stinging complete response letter from the FDA in January, seeking “additional information.” The company refiled its NDA a month ago. Malamut, a pain medicine expert formerly of Avanir, is tasked with building the pipeline and portfolio, which features a Phase III drug for chronic pain.

→ With plans to submit new drug applications in the US and Europe the coming year, Karyopharm $KPTI has hired a CCO, Anand Varadan, to lead the relevant strategy and operations. His main job will be to plan the launch of selinexor, which scored a positive Phase IIb update for refractory multiple myeloma patients back in April.  

→ The FDA may have punted Catalyst Pharmaceuticals’ $CPRX NDA before, but this time the company is sure its submission will put Firdapse on track for approval. That confidence has led them to Daniel Brennan, who’s been hired as chief commercial officer to lead all sales, marketing and commercial operations. Brennan worked on teams that launched new products at Lundbeck and Abbott before testing out operational roles at Insys and Edge Therapeutics.

Evolus $EOLS has snapped up yet another Allergan staffer to serve on its C-suite, this time in anticipation of a launch — for real — for its Botox rival. Michael Jafar, previously VP of medical aesthetics at Allergan in charge of product development and market assessment for several franchises, has been appointed chief marketing officer. Led by Jafar’s former boss David Moatazedi, Evolus was recently hit by a CRL from the FDA, but the management has promised a swift response that will allow for DWP-450 to launch next spring.  

→ Two execs have joined Clinipace as the CRO unveiled a new brand for its clinical study services. As chief development officer, Dawn Sauro is tasked with partnership strategies, leveraging the clinical site relationships she’s built up at inVentiv Health, PRA Health Sciences and PPD. Chiltern vet Sharon Moore will serve as chief medical officer.

→ Fading out of its overnight notoriety over plans to sell its ALS med under “right to try,” BrainStorm $BCLI has appointed Joseph Petroziello from Juno Therapeutics as vice president of scientific & corporate communications, and Pfizer vet Susan Ward as head of clinical operations.


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