Peer Review

Belgian upstart Rewind taps Ian Reynolds as CEO; Robert Foster takes the reins at ContraVir

Ian Reynolds

→ With $17 million of Series A money in tow, Belgian biotech Rewind Therapeutics has found a new leader in Ian Reynolds, a “talented drug-hunter” in neuroscience who traded a tenured professorship for discovery roles in biopharma, most recently VP and head of discovery research at Teva’s US unit. As CEO, Reynolds will lead Rewind to advance treatments for myelin-related diseases to the clinic in close collaboration with their founders at KU Leuven’s Centre for Drug Design and Discovery and Axxam. Boehringer Ingelheim and Merck’s venture arms are backing the company alongside Flemish investment company PMV.

Robert Foster

→ As James Sapirstein steps down from ContraVir Pharmaceuticals, seasoned CEO Robert Foster has once again found himself at the helm of a biotech — on a temporary basis. Foster has been serving as CSO since Contravir merged with Ciclofilin Pharma, a company he co-founded and led, in 2016. His first priority: to conduct a full review of the pipeline and corporate strategy. “There is no question in my mind that ContraVir has great science, assets and people,” he said in a statement. “However, it’s also clear there is a gap between that and how the investment community sees and values the company’s potential. […] I am incredibly energized by this opportunity, and look forward to updating our stakeholders as we progress.”

NGM Bio will start its first day as a public company with newly promoted execs at the top. Former CFO David Woodhouse is taking William Rieflin’s place in the CEO office as Rieflin assumes the executive chairman role, three years after Woodhouse first joined the biotech from Goldman Sachs. On his side will be COO Aetna Wun Trombley, who will now double as the president of the company in light of Jeff Jonker’s departure. NGM Bio has filed for a $75 million IPO on the promise of its NASH therapy as well as research deal with Merck worth up to $450 million.

Jack McGovern has been named interim CEO at NovaBay Pharma $NBY, where he will now oversee daily operations in addition to his CFO duties. His promotion frees up his predecessor, Mark Sieczkarek, to scout deals that will beef up the company’s commercial and late-stage ophthalmic products.  

Jeb Keiper is moving up to the CEO post at Nimbus. The high-profile biotech says Keiper, who joined Nimbus in 2014 as head of business development, played a big role in forging deals and financing rounds that brought in $775 million — including a blockbuster $400 million cash deal with Gilead for its NASH program. In a statement, founding CEO Don Nicholson said he was looking forward to moving on to the “next entrepreneurial chapter of my career,” wishing Keiper continued success with his move up. His departure from the computational drug discovery company comes seven months after Rosana Kapeller left her role as founding CSO

→ Synlogic’s board has decided to hand a permanent promotion to Aoife Brennan, who’s been running the show since Jose Carlos Gutiérrez-Ramos unexpectedly departed back in May. Brennan joined the company in 2016 as the chief medical officer.

Albert Bourla spent 25 years getting to the top at Pfizer, and now he’ll complete the last stride into the CEO’s office, taking control of one of the world’s biggest pharma giants. Pfizer announced this morning that Bourla would be taking the reins at the company on January 1, with Ian Read moving from chairman and CEO to executive chairman. The big move was widely heralded late last year, when Bourla was tapped to move from the company’s Innovative Health group to the new position of chief operating officer. Read made a series of big changes at the end of his rein — part of a big legacy that Bourla will inherit, as well as a strategy he clearly intends to carry on under Read’s tutelage at least for awhile.

Judy Smythe

Science 37, the virtual clinical trial company that scored a key Big Pharma partnership with Novartis earlier this year, has recruited three experienced execs from different corners of the life sciences world. Judy Smythe, a McKesson alum and former president of WebMD Health Services, is the new COO; Bardia Akbari is joining as SVP of clinical operations after more than 15 years at Roche/Genentech; and Niv Caviar, a biotech veteran with stints at Allergan and La Jolla, assumes the CFO position after serving as chief executive of a medical device companies for the past four years.

→ We now know where Natalie Sacks was headed after jumping ship at Aduro $ADRO.

The chief medical officer changed hats but kept the same job, joining South San Francisco-based Harpoon Therapeutics, which has been working on T cell engaging therapies.

Sacks left Aduro exactly two years after joining the biotech. And she left just days ahead of a revamp at Aduro that followed J&J’s decision to abandon its long-running pair of partnerships at the company, valued at up to $1.2 billion. 

Sacks had been in charge of clinical development at Onyx earlier, playing a role in the Kyprolis program. 

→ Having dealt with drug development as both a regulator and an investment advisor, Armand Balboni has taken up a more hands-on role as Appili Therapeutics’ first CSO, tasked with steering its infectious disease programs through the clinic. The Canadian biotech likes both his background in the military and recent experience at Burton Bloom, which they expect to translate into scientific insights for government and industry collaborations.

→ Dallas-based CardioVascular BioTherapeutics has scooped Ori Ben-Yehuda from Gilead to oversee its full range of protein drug research programs — from diabetic wounds to erectile dysfunction — as the new CMO.

Inge Lues is retiring from Probiodrug as her five-year contract as chief development officer comes to an end, passing her R&D responsibilities to Michael Schaeffer, who’s just been promoted to chief business officer days ago. Schaeffer inherits an Alzheimer’s disease program that Lues has led to the edges of a Phase IIb trial.

Titan Pharma has created a new position in preparation for the relaunch of its opioid addiction implant, and Merck vet Dane Hallberg is filling the spot. Before his appointment as EVP and chief commercial officer, Hallberg has been consulting with the company to evaluate the market and identify the strategic position for Probuphine.

CASI Pharma $CASI has recruited Big Pharma vet Larry Zhang to lead its China operations in Beijing, with a special focus on commercialization. Zhang was most recently VP, head of public affairs and corporate responsibility at Novartis’ China unit, playing a lead role in helping the Swiss drugmaker adapt to China’s drug approval reform. That follows a CEO stint at Sandoz (China) as well as executive roles with Bayer and Baxter in Asia.

→ Digital med developer Click Therapeutics has appointed Avanir vet Randall Kaye as chief medical officer and Austin Speier as chief strategy officer. Speier, previously VP, emerging technologies, is charged with liaising with the FDA and other stakeholders to “build out this new therapeutic category.” Click has recently closed a $17 million round led by Sanofi’s venture arm and is developing a phone app designed for smoking cessation.

Thomas Davis is fusing his expertise in cancer vaccine and cell therapy in his new job as CMO of Genocea $GNCA. As he did in Gadeta and Celldex, where he held the same role, he will lead clinical and regulatory development for Genocea’s neoantigen vaccine and cell therapy programs. The Cambridge, MA-based biotech is also welcoming Derek Meisner, its first-ever general counsel.

Editas Medicine $EDIT has wooed two execs from high profile biopharma companies to help execute its vision for broad applications of its gene editing technology. SVP of immunogenetics Richard Morgan moves from bluebird bio, bringing experience from the NIH, while Sanofi vet Kate Zhang will be VP of biological development.

Marino Garcia is the new SVP of corporate and business development at Zealand Pharma $ZEAL, where he is expected to hit the ground running with his years of experience planning and managing corporate initiatives.  

→ In recognition of its growing presence in the Asia market, Belgium’s Promethera has promoted the general manager of its Japan office to group CFO. Mutsuki Takano succeeds Frank Hazevoets.

Forty Seven has added immunology superstar and newly minted Nobel laureate Jim Allison to its advisory team along with three other heavyweights from the research world: Stanford’s Ronald Levy, MD Anderson’s Padmanee Sharma, and Georgetown’s Louis Weiner.


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Biotech Investment Analyst
SV Health Investors Boston, MA
Research Scientist - Disease Biology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Senior Scientist - Predictive Pharmacology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director, Translational Sciences
Cadent Therapeutics Cambridge, MA
Director of Marketing
twoXAR Mountain View, CA

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