As Codiak enters 'next phase of growth,' Jennifer Wheler steps into CMO role; Mark Timney lines up his second CEO opportunity after Purdue Pharma reign
Most CMOs don’t start out as art students. But after getting her bachelor’s in art history from Princeton University, Jennifer Wheler decided to go after an MD from Cornell, kicking off a decades-long career in biopharma. Her next move? Leading the team at Codiak BioSciences to deliver therapeutics using a form of cellular postal service called exosomes.
“I was captivated by the science and the potential for exosomes to have transformational impact in cancer and other disease areas,” the incoming CMO told Endpoints News via email. “Codiak has a potent combination of great science and wonderfully experienced and kind people — it doesn’t get much better.”
Exosomes are lipid vesicles that shuttle molecular mail between cells. A series of companies — including Codiak and Mantra Bio — is trying to understand this natural messaging system, and copy it to build couriers that can slide drugs into hard-to-reach places. Using its engEx platform to design and engineer exosomes, Codiak put two candidates in the clinic in the last year.
“My immediate goals are to support the team in achieving the milestones for our two current clinical programs, exoIL-12 and exoSTING, and usher a third program, exoASO-STAT6, into the clinic,” Wheler said. “We’re looking forward to important data-readouts for our two lead programs this year.”
Wheler was introduced to Codiak through a “serendipitous connection from a friend.” Before this, she was CMO at bispecific antibody player Bicara Therapeutics. She previously led first-in-human studies in immuno-oncology at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, and served nearly a decade in the Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
While at MD Anderson, she founded Collage — a nonprofit that brings art programs to cancer patients — as a way of connecting her passions in art and medicine.
“Patients benefit from their work with artists in diverse ways — from finding welcome diversion while awaiting a doctor’s visit to being able to find peace through artistic expression at the end of their lives — this is undeniably important work,” she said.
Benny Sorensen, who’s been leading preclinical to clinical translational work and clinical strategy for Codiak, is stepping into a new role as senior VP of strategic projects.
“With the anticipated advancement and intensified focus in oncology, we believe it is an ideal time for us to expand our team for the next phase of growth,” CEO Doug Williams said in a statement. — Nicole DeFeudis
→ The same week that Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary The Crime of the Century on the opioid crisis premiered, Mark Timney has been named CEO of systemic amyloidosis biotech Attralus Therapeutics out of South San Francisco. With his name in a bevy of lawsuits, his time as CEO of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma earned but a fleeting mention in the release, but it did talk up Timney’s recent run at the helm of The Medicines Company. He’s also the chairman at Blade Therapeutics.
Other execs who have joined the Attralus fray are Gregory Bell (CMO), Glen Firestone (CBO), Krishna Gorti (head of corporate development) and Michael Klein (head of CMC). Co-founder Spencer Guthrie stays on as COO, while Rahul Kakkar — the CEO of Pandion before Merck purchased it for $1.85 billion — is now a member of the board.
→ We had Luisa Salter-Cid’s departure from Gossamer Bio in Peer Review less than a month ago, and this week Flagship Pioneering has given her another opportunity to be chief scientist, this time at Pioneering Medicines. When she left for Gossamer after 13 years at Bristol Myers Squibb, she was the Big Pharma’s VP and head of immunology, small molecule immuno-oncology, and genomics discovery. She joins a team at Pioneering Medicines that’s headlined by president Paul Biondi — a familiar face from Bristol Myers — and CMO Luciano Rossetti from Merck KGaA. Laura Carter succeeded Salter-Cid as Gossamer’s CSO on April 30.
→ Quickly lining up an IPO after making a splash with its February debut, Saurabh Saha-led Centessa added more gravitas to its leadership with Antoine Yver as CMO. Heading to Centessa after some time as Daiichi Sankyo’s global head of oncology R&D, Yver was a key cog in the approvals of Tagrisso, Lynparza and Enhertu — climbing his way to SVP, global medicine head, oncology, and global medicines development China lead. One of the big names associated with Centessa’s first few weeks in existence, ex-Operation Warp Speed chief Moncef Slaoui, resigned his CSO and advisor positions in the wake of substantiated sexual harassment allegations while with GlaxoSmithKline.
→ Yizhe Wang has succeeded Bing Li as CEO of LianBio, chaired by Perceptive’s Konstantin Poukalov and awash in cash after a $310 million raise. Wang makes the jump to leading a company after three years at Eli Lilly that culminated in being the point man for bamlanivimab as global platform lead for anti-Covid therapy at Lilly Research Lab. He also made his mark in the US, UK and China during 15 years at GlaxoSmithKline, leading GSK China Pharmaceuticals’ respiratory business unit before setting off for Lilly.
→ A former AbbVie exec is hitting the trail towards a mid-sized biotech as its newly-minted CMO. Thorsten Graef makes the leap to NK cell player Acepodia after serving as head of early oncology development at AbbVie. Prior to his role at AbbVie, Graef had a stint at Pharmacyclics — the maker of blood cancer med Imbruvica.
→ Backed by Versant and Westlake Village BioPartners (Beth Seidenberg is on the board), Bob Cuddihy’s new gene therapy play Capsida has handed the CMO reins to Swati Tole. She comes to Capsida following almost 13 years working in gastroenterology and hepatology at Genentech, taking on an assortment of job titles in that time and moving up to VP, clinical development. Additionally, Muna Therapeutics CSO Rita Balice-Gordon has joined Capsida’s board of directors.
→ Starting June 1, Marc Stapley will take over as CEO of South San Francisco genomic diagnostics player Veracyte, as Bonnie Anderson pivots to executive chair and an advisor to Stapley. Anderson, who officially steps down June 1, co-founded Veracyte in 2008 and was CEO from the beginning, guiding the company to its IPO in Fall 2013. Stapley will move to Veracyte from Helix after two years as chairman and CEO, and from 2012-19, the Pfizer financial vet was EVP, CFO and chief administrative officer for Illumina.
→ Michael Stocum is settling in as president and CEO at New York-based Bantam Pharmaceutical. The founding CEO of Inivata from 2014-18, Slocum has Big Pharma ties at GSK as director, business development & alliance management. Bantam has sharpened its focus on diffuse large B-cell lymphoma with BTM-3566, a selective modulator of mitochondrial dynamics.
→ Taysha Gene Therapies has been motoring along at a breakneck pace since launching in April 2020, with another funding round, an IPO that closed in September and a deal made in April for the gene therapy TSHA-120 to treat giant axonal neuropathy. The biotech has assembled an impressive staff in a similarly speedy fashion, with Mary Newman signing on as chief development officer. Newman had been SVP of regulatory affairs for Astellas Gene Therapies (once known as Audentes) and has also held regulatory management roles at BioMarin.
→ Only time will tell: Beverly, MA-based TellBio took the wraps off its liquid biopsy platform with a modest $5 million Series A, naming Pritesh Gandhi CEO and Annie Partisano SVP and head of operations in the process. With roles at Alexion, Millennium and Sanofi Genzyme under his belt, Gandhi came to Alnylam in 2014 as VP, medical affairs and had been general manager for John Maraganore’s squad since 2018. Moving on from Kiniksa after her time as VP, medical operations, Partisano also brings experience as Gandhi does from Alnylam and Sanofi Genzyme.
→ Matica Biotechnology — providing viral vector GMP manufacturing services for cell and gene therapies — has reeled in Yun Jeong Song to sail at the helm of the ship as CEO, succeeding Byung Se So. Prior to her new role, Song was the CEO of ImmuneOncia Therapeutics. Prior to that, Song was with the NIH, Samsung and Sanofi.
→ Intrance Medical Systems has tapped Patrick Shea as CEO and member of the board. Shea comes from Antares Pharmaceuticals, where he served as SVP, commercial. Prior to that role, he was CCO at Eaglet Corporation and Clarus Therapeutics. Additionally, Shea held roles at CSL Behring, Astellas, Ligand Pharmaceutical and Boehringer Ingelheim.
→ Kyle Chiang is leaving LogicBio after just getting promoted to COO seven months ago. Chiang, who joined the biotech in 2016, “will pursue an opportunity at a venture capital firm focusing on early-stage sustainability and life sciences focused ventures,” according to a release.
Starting Monday, Andrea Paul will be general counsel and corporate secretary at LogicBio, while further down the line, the gene therapy and gene editing biotech will roll out the welcome mat for SVP of strategy and portfolio management Janice Olson on June 7. Paul comes to LogicBio from Akebia, where she was VP, legal, and she’s the ex-senior corporate counsel at Momenta. Olson spent more than a quarter century with Sanofi Genzyme, capping that run as head of global medical affairs operations.
→ Pfizer spinout SpringWorks Therapeutics has tapped Mike Burgess as head of R&D, replacing acting head of R&D Stephen Squinto, who will now concentrate on his CEO duties at Gennao Bio. Burgess has a deep Big Pharma background, starting at Eli Lilly, then at Roche, and later at Bristol Myers, where he was SVP, cardiovascular, fibrosis and immunoscience development. He then turned away from Bristol Myers to become president of R&D at Turnstone Biologics in 2017.
→ Pfizer vet Jenny Ni has moved on to Shanghai-based CAR-T player Gracell Biotechnologies as chief technology officer. Ni takes command of CAR-T product development, supply chain and CMC at Gracell, which rang in 2021 as one of the year’s first IPOs. She’s led process development at both Pfizer and most recently at Allogene, where she had served since Arie Belldegrun and David Chang started the company in 2018.
→ You could say that there are a plethora of new staffers teaming up with Diem Nguyen at IL-10 gene therapy biotech Xalud Therapeutics, so we’ll run through them quickly: First, chief development officer Howard Rutman makes his way to Xalud after his tenure as VP of medical affairs for the US business division at Daiichi Sankyo. COO Brendan O’Leary has logged 17 years at Pfizer and was general manager of its generics subsidiary Greenstone. Pfizer and Shire alum Kristin Murray, Xalud’s chief regulatory officer, just had a brief stay at Ultragenyx as head of regulatory CMC, gene therapy. Good on you for spotting the trend, as the Pfizer theme recurs with new chief technology officer Steve Vicik, who brings a wealth of supply chain and product development experience with him from his years with the pharma giant. Finally, the Pfizer theme resolves with SVP of commercial development Kristen Albright, formerly the US team leader for Zoloft (among other drugs) who rose to VP, women’s health marketing and sales.
→ Following the arrival of chief people officer Amie Krause, Cokey Nguyen has been named CSO of Atara Biotherapeutics, which has a new best friend in Bayer with a $610 million deal aimed at cell therapies for mesothelin. Nguyen, the ex-senior director of oncology R&D at Pfizer who also assisted with the J&J/Legend union while with Janssen, has most recently been VP, R&D innovation at Fate Therapeutics. After his time at Pfizer, Fate came calling for Nguyen in the fall of 2019, serving as VP, solid tumor biology until his promotion.
→ Chris Morabito has left after less than a year as CMO at Cardurion Therapeutics to take the same position at Fulcrum. Morabito has made the Big Pharma rounds at Merck and Sanofi, but most notably at Takeda as SVP and head of R&D for plasma-derived protein therapies. Back in August, Fulcrum’s stock took a nose dive after losmapimod — a drug that had been gathering dust at GSK until it was snapped up a couple years ago — flopped in a Phase II study.
→ One of several biotechs that can tell you all about trudging through the unforgiving NASH field, CymaBay has brought on Lewis Stuart as chief commercial officer after a short period of time leading the prostate cancer franchise at Myovant, where he started as VP of oncology sales and marketing in 2019. Stuart has taken a spin around the CCO block before at NovaBay and CV Therapeutics, and he spent four years as VP, US oncology for Genomic Health.
→ After poaching CCO Sushil Patel from Genentech, Woburn, MA cancer biotech Replimune isn’t done breaking in new execs, appointing Tanya Lewis as chief development operations officer. Lewis was previously chief regulatory strategy and strategic operations officer at Karyopharm, now led by Richard Paulson. A regulatory VP at such biotechs as Tesaro, Idera and Syros, Lewis resigned from Replimune’s board a week ago before vaulting into this position.
→ Chris Heberlig has been named CFO at KSQ Therapeutics, the biotech joining forces with Takeda on a $100 million partnership to develop immuno-oncology therapies using KSQ’s CRISPRomics discovery engine. Heberlig makes the jump after serving as CFO at Kiniksa from 2015-20, and prior to that he was a financial exec at Synageva until Alexion’s 2015 acquisition.
→ MapLight Therapeutics — focused on treating CNS disorders — has pulled in Erin Pennock Foff as CMO. Foff comes aboard from Acadia Pharmaceuticals, where she served as executive director of clinical development. Prior to that, she was an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, where she was an investigator in numerous interventional clinical trials in neurodegenerative and neurovascular disease.
→ As the June 1 PDUFA date nears for oral antifungal ibrexafungerp — showing “statistically superior efficacy” to treat vaginal yeast infection — Scynexis has selected Christine Coyne as chief commercial officer. Once the director of Latin America commercial operations during a long run at Pfizer, Coyne had been SVP, commercial with Paratek Pharmaceuticals before her move to Scynexis.
→ UK immuno-oncology biotech Crescendo Biologics is turning up the volume with Michael Booth as CFO. Booth devoted almost seven years to Incyte, becoming division VP, investor relations & corporate responsibility at the tail end of his tenure. Elsewhere, he was Algeta’s SVP, communications & corporate affairs until Bayer ponied up $2.6 billion to buy the company.
→ After Howard Stern (the other one) took on the CSO job with RNA editing upstart Korro Bio a month ago, the C-suite has expanded with Vineet Agarwal becoming Korro’s first CFO. Agarwal had been senior executive director in the healthcare investment banking group at JP Morgan Chase, where he had spent the past 14 years. Korro made its debut in October 2019 and is chaired by co-founder Ness Bermingham.
→ Cancer metabolism-based therapy (CMBT) developer Tyme Technologies out of New Jersey has recruited Novartis vet Frank Porfido as CFO. Porfido left Novartis in 2019 after more than 15 years, rounding out his career at the pharma giant as head of global finance and operations for the oncology business unit, and since then he had been UroGen’s VP, finance.
→ Almost exactly a year after Matt David began as CFO, Thomas Nusbickel has gotten the call to be the first CCO at infectious and inflammatory disease-focused CorMedix. Nusbickel makes the transition to CorMedix from Coherus Biosciences, where he was VP of market access and government affairs. He also devoted more than two decades to Amgen, with 10 of those years centered on the launch of Sensipar as executive director, global marketing and later as executive director, value access & advocacy.
→ Mana Therapeutics is making way for the promotions of Andy Hurwitz as CSO and Michael Kuo as SVP of technical operations. Hurwitz moved his way up the ranks from his former position as SVP and head of research at Mana. Prior to his gig at MANA, Hurwitz was with AgenTus Therapeutics and the NIH. Meanwhile, Kuo was promoted from his position as VP of quality and supply chain. Before Mana, Kuo was at MaxCyte, Mesoblast and Amgen, among others.
→ Equipped with $80 million in Series C funding to challenge the big boys from Takeda and CSL Behring in hereditary angioedema (HAE), Swiss-based Pharvaris has locked in Wim Souverijns as chief community engagement & commercial officer. Souverijns had been ObsEva’s CCO since 2018, preceded by a series of roles over 11 years at Celgene, capped by his two years as corporate VP, global marketing hematology & oncology.
→ Swiss-based Stalicla has snagged Baltazar Gomez-Mancilla as CMO. Gomez-Mancilla brings with him experience from his times at Pharmacia-UpJohn as senior director of clinical genomics and Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research — where he served as executive director neuroscience, translational medicine.
→ At the same time as enrolling patients for its PhIII clinical trial, Prilenia Therapeutics is picking up Paul Goldberg as CSO and head of early clinical development. Goldberg joins the company from Ionis Pharmaceuticals, where he served as VP of clinical development. Prior to that, Goldberg was with Xenon Pharmaceuticals.
→ After serving as a financial advisor for the company, Seattle-based OncoResponse has locked in Chris Russell as CFO. Russell comes from Oracle Corp, where he served as president. Prior to that, he was with ArcSight, WageWorks and TrustArc.
→ Synthekine has named Naiyer Rizvi as CMO. Rizvi joins the company after his most recent stint as the Price Family professor of medicine, director of thoracic oncology and co-director of cancer immunotherapy at Columbia University Medical Center. In addition, he was the co-founder of Gritstone Oncology.
→ Mere weeks after Relay Therapeutics acquired the Google-partnered machine learning company ZebiAI for $85 million in upfront cash, who better to bring in than someone from the tech giant? Relay — which also raked in a monster IPO last summer — has pegged Patrick Riley as SVP of artificial intelligence after more than 15 years with Google, working his way up to principal engineer and senior researcher with Google Accelerated Science.
→ Sequencing company DNAe has enlisted Richard Hammond as VP of technology. Hammond comes aboard from Cambridge Consultants, where he was technology director and head of bioinnovation. Prior to that, he served at Alere (now Abbott Rapid Diagnostics).
→ Corza Health CEO Gregory Lucier has been named chairman of the board at Berkeley Lights, while Catalent CEO John Chiminski also nabs a seat on the board of directors. The digital cell biology outfit’s upsized IPO exceeded $200 million at its close in July 2020.
→ Launched by Frazier Healthcare Partners a year ago this week with a $15 million Series A, San Diego-based oncology drug developer Lengo Therapeutics has made Dave Johnson chairman of the board. Johnson, the CEO of VelosBio, also helmed Acerta Pharma from 2013-16.
→ Angie You’s immuno-oncology biotech Amunix, bolstered by $117 million in Series B cash for AMX-818 — a masked protease-activated T cell engager for HER2 expressing tumors — has reserved a seat for Ciara Kennedy on the board of directors. Kennedy was president and CEO of Amplyx until Pfizer bought it out in April for an undisclosed amount.
→ Bruce Booth-chaired Nimbus Therapeutics has elected Anne McGeorge to the board of directors. McGeorge, the former managing partner of the global health care and life sciences practices at Grant Thornton, is also on the board at Magenta Therapeutics, among others.
→ After enlisting Robert Scannevin as CSO last week, drug discovery company Verge Genomics is bringing on Mario Saltarelli to its scientific advisory board. Saltarelli is the CEO of US Green Valley Pharmaceuticals. Additionally, over his career, Saltarelli has held positions at such companies as Neuron23, Entrada, Syntimmune, Pfizer, Abbott, Shire and Vertex.
→ Vicki Seyfert-Margolis has stepped into her new role at the scientific advisory board of Penrose TherapeuTx. Seyfert-Margolis is the CEO and founder of My Own Med. Seyfert-Margolis comes with over 20 years of experience from her roles at the FDA, NIAID, ITN and NIH.