Peer Review

Atara seeks new CEO as Isaac Ciechanover exits; AstraZeneca’s Mark Mallon tapped to replace Peter Hecht at Ironwood

→ In an abrupt departure, Isaac Ciechanover is stepping down from Atara Biotherapeutics $ATRA, the T cell therapy company that he founded in 2012 in honor of his mother. The South San Francisco biotech gave no reason for this change, which will take place by June 30, offering only the standard thank you and the vision for its pipeline of off-the-shelf CAR-T programs, allied with prominent investigators around the country.

Bahija Jallal isn’t the only senior AstraZeneca exec heading to new biotech fields. Mark Mallon — current EVP in charge of portfolio strategy — is on his way to take the CEO job at Ironwood $IRWD, as that company splits up under pressure and Peter Hecht leaves to run the R&D spinout.

→ Having been groomed for the helm at Allena Pharmaceuticals $ALNA — elevated to the president role within two years of joining the company as COO — Louis Brenner is officiall taking over from founder Alexey Margolin, who is transitioning to the chairman role. The Newton, MA-based biotech is developing oral enzyme therapeutics to treat metabolic and kidney disorders, with the lead program reloxaliase set to begin Phase III.

→ Specialty pharma Avadel Pharmaceuticals $AVDL is parting ways with Michael Anderson and putting Gregory Divis in charge as the interim CEO. The temporary promotion comes months after Divis ascended from chief commercial officer to the COO post. Avadel’s portfolio covers urology, central nervous system and sleep drugs.

→ Like a long line of Novartis execs before her, Liz Barrett has switched to the biotech side of the industry — helming UroGen, a company she didn’t know until executive chairman Arie Belldegrun convinced her to pay a visit to its New York City headquarters. Barrett takes over from Ron Bentsur just as the company is anticipating final Phase III data for UGN-101, a special gel for upper tract urothelial cancer.

Cash rich and poised to begin Phase III with a psoriasis drug, Dermavant has scooped Philip Brown from Nestlé’s Galderma to become its CMO. Tapinarof, a topical cream designed to activate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor, is also being explored for atopic dermatitis.

Marie Kosco-Vilbois has left her lengthy tenure at Novimmune to take up the CSO position at AC Immune $ACIU, where she will leverage a deep background in immunology to direct the company’s research work in neurodegenerative diseases — including efforts in Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome and Parkinson’s.

→ As London’s Verona Pharma gears up for a pivotal COPD trial, it’s tapped a pair of GlaxoSmithKline vets to lead its clinical development team. Kathleen Rickard is coming on board as CMO while Tara Rheault has been named VP of R&D operations and global project management. Both will direct R&D activities from the biotech’s US offices. The inhaled treatment RPL554 showed promise in both COPD and cystic fibrosis, triggering a rally for the biotech’s stock $VRNA last March.

→ Following CFO David Gryska’s retirement, Incyte $INCY has found his replacement in Christiana Stamoulis, a former investment banker who’s taken a front seat in biotech at Vertex and, more recently, Unum Therapeutics.  

Nimbus Therapeutics is ready to bring a third program to the clinic in 2019, and it’s officially hiring Big Pharma vet Alan Collis get the IND in place. Bringing experience from Pfizer, Novartis and Forma Therapeutics, Collins has worked on the tyrosine kinase 2 (Tyk2) program — partnered with Celgene — since October. He joins as Holly Whittmore and Abbas Kazimi get promoted to CFO and VP of business development, respectively.

→ After a stint as chief operating officer at Origin Biosciences, Eric Mosbrooker is returning to the commercial side of things at fellow rare disease company Audentes Therapeutics $BOLD. As CCO, the Alexion alum will be in charge of devising a strategy and building out a team for the eventual launch of Audentes’ gene therapies, the most advanced of which is still in Phase I/II.

→ Months after nabbing rights to develop and sell a homegrown PD-L1 to sell outside of China, Shanghai-based Harbour BioMed is spreading its wings in the US, where it has an outpost in Boston. Atul Deshpande, who managed the Dupixent franchise for Sanofi’s Genzyme, has been tapped to spearhead this effort as chief strategy officer and head of US operations alongside newly promoted chief development officer Xiaoxiang Chen and chief business officer Mai-Jing Liao.

→ As Roche-partnered SQZ Biotech prepares to take its first cell therapy into the clinic, it’s recruited Oliver Rosen to oversee the clinical operation as CMO. Most recently serving the same role at Deciphera Pharma, Rosen’s resume spans roles at Millennium, Genentech, Amgen and Roche.

DBV Technologies $DBVT is reshuffling its leadership following an unexpected announcement that it’s rescinding the marketing application for its peanut allergy drug. With Lucia Septien-Velez leaving for other opportunities, CSO Hugh Sampson will double as the interim CMO. Meanwhile, CEO Daniel Tassé will now be getting advice from Julie O’Neill, a current board director formerly of Alexion, on product development, manufacturing, quality assurance, and end-to-end process optimization in an effort to refile its BLA for Viaskin Peanut.


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VP Oncology Biology
Skyhawk Therapeutics Waltham, MA
Associate Director CMC
Elektroki Boston, MA
Director Process Development
Elektroki Boston, MA
Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT

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