As lawsuit carries on against Guardant Health, CFO shakeup hits Illumina; Pfizer-backed biotech taps CEO to lead pursuit of gene therapy 2.0
→ Sam Samad is out as CFO of Illumina as chief strategy and corporate development officer Joydeep Goswami slides in for him on an interim basis starting July 8. Goswami joined Francis deSouza’s crew in 2019 as SVP of corporate development and strategic planning after his time as president of Thermo Fisher’s clinical next-generation sequencing (NGS) and oncology business unit.
Guardant Health, a primary liquid biopsy screening test competitor, filed a motion to dismiss Illumina’s case against the company in late May. Its co-founders and co-CEOs, Helmy Eltoukhy and AmirAli Talasaz, are former staffers at Illumina, which is alleging that the pair infringed on intellectual property to develop Guardant’s technology.
“Illumina’s lawsuit frivolously challenges our ownership and authorship of our intellectual property, which is the backbone of our vital work,” Guardant Health general counsel John Saia said in a March statement.
→ Swiss gene therapy player Anjarium Biosciences jumped into the gene therapy 2.0 fray with a Series A in September 2021 that featured contributions from Abingworth, Gimv and Pfizer’s venture arm, and this week Stephen Yoo has hitched a ride as CEO. Yoo held clinical development posts at MedImmune/AstraZeneca before taking the CMO job at Regenxbio, and since 2019 he was CMO and at Third Harmonic Bio, a role presently occupied by Edward Conner.
→ Massachusetts solid tumor biotech Xilio Therapeutics has promoted Martin Huber to president of the company. Even with his new role, Huber will still maintain responsibilities as president of R&D. Huber joined Xilio after a stint as SVP and CMO of Tesaro (acquired by GSK). Earlier on in his career, Huber was SVP, oncology clinical research at Merck and held roles at Schering-Plough, Roche and Rhone-Poulenc Rorer. Huber currently sits on the boards of Mersana Therapeutics and Syndax Pharmaceuticals.
In addition to Huber’s promotion, Xilio is pulling out some seats on its board for former Alexion and Biogen CFO Paul Clancy as chair (succeeding Dan Lynch, who is transitioning to strategic advisor of the company) and Surface Oncology CEO Robert Ross.
→ With former Rafael Holdings boss Ameet Mallik running the show, ADC Therapeutics has installed David Gilman as chief business & strategy officer. Gilman spent his short snippet of time at Novartis Oncology as global head of portfolio strategy and business development, overlapping with Mallik’s run as head of US operations. Gilman eventually left Novartis in 2019 to become a partner at ClearView Healthcare Partners.
→ Replimune phased out Andrea Pirzkall’s position in 2021 after a year on the job “without cause,” but she has since resurfaced at San Francisco-based Asher Bio as CMO. Before her stint at Replimune, Pirzkall was BeiGene’s executive director of clinical development and also spent a decade at Genentech. Asher Bio garnered the support of Third Rock and RA Capital with its $108 million Series B last September as it develops its lead candidate, a CD8-targeting IL-2.
→ Alex Zhavoronkov’s global AI player Insilico Medicine — which days ago added a robotics lab to the company with a fresh injection of $60 million — is bumping up their CMO Feng Ren into the role of co-CEO. Ren will be in charge of the development side of things as the company begins testing more of their drugs in humans while Zhavoronkov will handle the AI portion of the company. Ren, a Harvard grad, joined the company last February after a stint in Shanghai. Earlier in his career, Ren spent 11 years with GSK R&D China, culminating in his role as head of chemistry.
→ Deciphera sang the restructuring blues after a late-stage trial fail with Qinlock last fall, sending 35% of its workforce packing in a move that CEO Steve Hoerter hopes will keep the lights on through 2024. As they press forward, Big Pharma vet Kelley Dealhoy has stepped in as CBO. In a total of 10 years with Novartis, Dealhoy held such roles as VP of US business development for the pharmaceutical division, global head of business development and M&A for the consumer division, and more recently, VP of business development for the oncology division.
→ Colin McCracken is moseying down to synthetic bio company Evonetix to take over the reins as CEO. McCracken joins the Cambridge, UK-based company from Fluidigm, where he served as SVP and CCO. Prior to that stint, McCracken had gigs at Thermo Fisher (VP and general manager and VP of sales); Life Technologies (VP and head of European sales); and Qiagen (national sales manager).
→ The heat is on … and then it wasn’t, when Heat Bio rebranded to NightHawk Biosciences in April. NightHawk has tapped Stephan Kutzer as interim CEO of its CDMO subsidiary Scorpion Biological Services, which will be building a new biomanufacturing site in the Little Apple of Manhattan, KS. After 18 years at Lonza, 10 of those as president, divisional CEO and COO of the pharma biotech & customer manufacturing division, Kutzer held the top spot at Alcami Corporation, a company he also chaired.
→ Merck KGaA is promoting Larisa Amir to the role of managing director of its healthcare R&D center in Israel. Amir joined Merck KGaA in 2009 and served in a number of roles before culminating in her last position as global head of products quality LCM. Amir is also a member of the Merck Global Healthcare Discovery Technology Leadership team. Prior to joining Merck, Amir was COO at Procognia.
→ On July 1, Melissa Bradford-Klug will debut as COO of Akari Therapeutics, now helmed by former Enzyvant chief Rachelle Jacques. Bradford-Klug has worked in the rare disease space for Greater China as president and CBO of RareStone Group since January 2020; the former Mallinckrodt and AMAG Pharmaceuticals vet has CEO experience with Keryx Biopharmaceuticals and women’s health-focused Mayfield Pharmaceuticals.
→ Before striking a $25 million immuno-oncology deal with Exelixis, Sweden’s BioInvent named Sylvie Ryckebusch as CBO, diving into an executive position after assisting BioInvent part-time since 2019. In her 12 years at Merck KGaA/EMD Serono, Ryckebusch was head of neurology and autoimmune disease licensing, business development. BioInvent also added Forbion’s Nanna Lüneborg and Redmile Group’s Natalie Berner to the board of directors on Thursday, the same day the Exelixis deal was announced.
→ TCR upstart Marengo Therapeutics already added some gravitas to the team with FDA and Sana vet Ke Liu’s appointment as chief development officer, and it’s CFO Svetlana Makhni who takes center stage a month later. Makhni, the ex-finance chief of Bierman and Escient Pharmaceuticals, cut her teeth at Blackstone, Westbrook Partners, Goldman Sachs and BMO Capital Markets. In November 2021, Apple Tree Partners poured $80 million into creating Marengo, a biotech taking aim at Vβ TCR variants.
→ Domain Therapeutics, the French-Canadian GPCR player which bagged a $42 million Series A back in May, has promoted Xavier Leroy to CSO, who first joined the startup back in 2019 as chief technology officer. Leroy has also served as head of drug discovery at iTeos Therapeutics and owns GPCR experience from his 13 years at Actelion.
→ Helsinki-based Valo Therapeutics (not to be confused with Flagship’s Valo Health) has picked up Hemanshu Shah as CBO. Shah has Big Pharma experience galore from 13 years at Bristol Myers Squibb and a year as J&J’s global commercial leader, oncology. From 2012-14, he was VP of global marketing and global therapeutic head for transplantation, immunology & infectious diseases with Astellas, and before accepting this role, Shah served as VP, corporate development at Transgene.
→ Hangzhou, China-based Ascletis — the first pre-revenue biotech to list on the HKEX in 2018 — has rolled out the welcome mat for John Gargiulo as CBO. A key cog in the US business operations of Daiichi Sankyo, Gargiulo concluded his 18 years with AstraZeneca’s Enhertu partner as North American president and CEO, and from there, he was a principal for GPG Enterprises.
→ Briggs Morrison did a switcheroo with Michael Metzger at Syndax Pharmaceuticals in February, as Morrison ceded his CEO post to Metzger to take on the role of president and lead R&D. Against that backdrop, Syndax’s CFO vacancy has been filled by Keith Goldan, who leaves the same role at Optinose just as the biotech gained more traction with its nasal spray Xhance for patients with chronic sinusitis in a second Phase III trial.
→ Attempting to separate itself in a burgeoning protein degradation field, RA Capital-backed Avilar Therapeutics has introduced Adam Muzikant to the squad as CBO. Muzikant was at the negotiating table as business chief of Flexion Therapeutics when the Zilretta maker was sold to Pacira Biosciences in October 2021. Before joining Flexion, Muzikant was a business development exec with AMAG Pharmaceuticals and Synta Pharmaceuticals.
→ Riverside Partners’ portfolio company Syner-G BioPharma Group is ushering in Ron Kraus as CEO, succeeding Prabu Nambiar. Kraus joins from Cytel, where he served as COO. Prior to that, Kraus spent two decades at Parexel International in a variety of roles including global head of Parexel Consulting.
→ After jumping on board as CEO of GlycoEra last month, Ganesh Kaundinya has shored up his leadership with a longtime colleague. Tanmoy Ganguly will take on CSO duties at the glycobiology and protein degradation biotech, pivoting from Evelo Biosciences, where he was a VP in charge of pharmacology, research analytics and bioinformatics. Ganguly spent a significant portion of his career at Momenta, which Kaundinya founded in 2001 and was sold to J&J in 2020 for $6.5 billion.
→ Heavy nova: There’s a pair of promotions at Newtown, PA cancer biotech Onconova, as Mark Guerin (COO and CFO) and Adar Makovski Silverstein (senior director and head of corporate development) climb the ladder. Guerin tacks on another role after serving as CFO of Onconova since September 2013, with the company’s $78 million IPO predating his arrival by two months. We covered Silverstein’s appointment as director, corporate development last December after her nearly three years in business development, external R&D at Amgen.
→ Eye disease-focused Clearside Biomedical has recruited Susan Coultas as chief clinical officer. Coultas most recently served as SVP of clinical development at Kala Pharmaceuticals. Before that, Coultas had gigs at Alcon Laboratories, CibaVision Ophthalmics, Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Bausch + Lomb and InfoQuest Clinical Network.
→ Durham, NC-based Aerami Therapeutics has appointed Lisa Yañez as COO. Before joining the C-suite at Aerami, Yañez held executive positions at Acceleron (VP of global strategic marketing) and United Therapeutics (VP of marketing, analytics and training). Earlier, she was a product manager with GSK, Allergan and Genentech.
→ Cary, NC-based Allucent has tapped Katy Moore as president of clinical pharmacology, modeling and simulation. Moore joins with a wealth of experience, having served as global head of clinical pharmacology at ViiV Healthcare; headed the viral diseases and oncology clinical pharmacology, modeling and simulation teams at GSK; and also led worldwide business development teams at GSK.
→ Philip Okala has been named system president at City of Hope, filling a crucial role at one of the nation’s leading cancer research centers in September. Okala will run clinical care and research sites under the City of Hope umbrella, such as City of Hope Los Angeles, City of Hope Orange County, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope and Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Okala comes to City to Hope after five years as COO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
→ Dag Nesse has been named director of clinical operations at EpiEndo Pharmaceuticals out of Reykjavik, which raised a modest €20 million in its Series A last summer. Neese most recently served as senior director, head of clinical operations at Calliditas Therapeutics, and he has also served as head of operations at Modus Therapeutics.
→ Vanessa Salazar has moved to Boston gene therapy biotech STRM.BIO as VP of business development. Prior to joining STRM.BIO, she was executive director of corporate development and strategic partnerships at Passage Bio. Salazar, who started her career with a 16-year run at GSK, was also corporate development lead at Spark Therapeutics.
→ One day after being slapped with a Form 483 for multiple production issues, German CDMO Rentschler Biopharma is welcoming aboard Kassim Kolia as VP, business development. Kolia comes aboard boasting experience from FinVector & Oy, Eden Biodesign/Allergan, Lonza and Aptuit (part of Evotec).
→ Bristol Myers has expanded its board of directors, appointing Deepak Bhatt to the board’s Science & Technology Committee. Formerly with the Cleveland Clinic and VA Boston Healthcare, Bhatt is the executive director of interventional cardiovascular programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
→ During this week’s convention in San Diego, BIO dipped into the communications realm to appoint Mike Huckman to the board of directors. A three-time Emmy winner, Huckman spent 10 years as the pharmaceuticals reporter at CNBC and is now global practice leader for executive communications at Real Chemistry.
→ Verve Therapeutics, which just last month became the third biotech — behind Intellia and Editas Medicine — to test its gene editing technology in humans, has made way for Bo Cumbo on its board of directors. Cumbo, the ex-Sarepta chief commercial officer, currently serves as president and CEO of AavantiBio.
→ You may recall that Wendy Dixon retired from Alkermes’ board of directors in what the biotech called a“continued refreshment process,” but another opportunity has opened up for her on the board of directors at Iovance. Dixon, the former marketing exec at Bristol Myers and Merck, has seats on the boards of Arvinas and Black Diamond.
→ Visiox Pharma is bringing aboard Vicente Anido as a strategic advisor. Anido was ousted as CEO at Aerie Pharmaceuticals in September 2021 and was also chief executive at ISTA Pharmaceuticals.
→ June Bray is taking a seat on the board of directors of Cortexyme, joining at a turbulent time for the San Francisco-based biotech. Most recently, Bray was SVP, global regulatory affairs and medical writing at Allergan, and prior to that, Bray was with Organon and Berlex Laboratories. To say the company has had it rough would be an understatement: A failed attempt to bring forward an unorthodox approach to treating Alzheimer’s has led to a complete remake at the troubled biotech (transitioning its name to Quince Therapeutics) last month, with Novosteo CEO Dirk Thye and CMO Karen Smith coming aboard to help right the ship.
→ US-Dutch gamma delta T cell biotech Lava Therapeutics is bubbling up to the Peer Review surface by electing James Noble and Jay Backstrom to the board of directors. Noble co-founded Adaptimmune in 2008 and was CEO until 2019, and Backstrom — the ex-CMO and head of regulatory affairs at Celgene —became a board member at Disc Medicine not too long ago after wrapping up his time leading R&D at Acceleron.
→ Kathy Dong has been elected to the board of directors at Neuron23, Nancy Stagliano’s neuro startup from the folks at Westlake Village BioPartners. A nine-year Gilead vet who held various marketing roles at the California drugmaker, Dong has been the COO of Star Therapeutics since 2019.
→ Swedish pharma company NorthX Biologics is adding some new faces to its board of directors with the appointments of Lotta Ljungqvist, Richard Bergström, Mathias Uhlén and Lars Backsell. Here’s a quick summary of each new member:
Ljungqvist formerly served as president and CEO of GE for the Nordic region and is also the ex-CEO of Cytiva’s Testa Center for Bioprocess Innovation; Bergström was appointed Sweden’s vaccine coordinator during the Covid-19 epidemic and was previously director general of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations; meanwhile, Uhlén is a professor in microbiology at the Royal Institute of Technology and Backsell is a co-founder and former CEO of Recipharm.