Peer Review

Biotech entrepreneur Saurabh Saha moves to translational research chief at Bristol-Myers; Ex-GSK pharma chief Hussain switches to private equity

Saurabh Saha

→ Bristol-Myers Squibb $BMY has hired Saurabh Saha to run their translation science group, which is responsible for triaging preclinical work of interest and steering the most promising programs toward the clinic. Saha — a 40-year-old Johns Hopkins grad, where he worked in Bert Vogelstein’s lab — once upon a time labored inside Novartis’ global ops, before leaving for a string of new jobs in biotech. Nine years ago he set up a translational research and development organization called BioMed Valley Discoveries. Then his role as a venture partner at the prolific Atlas Venture led him to become chief medical officer at Synlogic, followed by a brief but wildly successful stint as CEO of Delinia. Saha is staying in the Boston area, where Bristol-Myers is building a new R&D center.

→ Near the beginning of this year, Abbas Hussain announced plans to leave his role as GlaxoSmithKline’s pharma chief, handing over the job to Luke Miels as new CEO Emma Walmsley began to assemble her own top team. And now Hussain has landed at C-Bridge Capital, a powerhouse Chinese private equity group which has invested heavily in some prominent Asian biotechs. Hussain spent eight years at GSK, building the pharma giant into the lead volume operation in the drug industry and rolling out a quota-free sales model in dozens of countries around the world. He started as emerging markets chief, with a big role in cleaning up a bribery scandal in China capped with a $500 million fine. His shift to senior partner at C-Bridge — after being tapped as a possible replacement for GSK CEO Andrew Witty — says a lot about the fast-changing biopharma world we live in now and China’s growing role in the industry.

→ Jeff Hatfield is being given the leading role at Zafgen, which is making a comeback bid after its lead drug proved unsafe. Hatfield, coming off his role as CEO of Vitae, which was sold to Allergan, will take the helm as Tom Hughes moves into a new role as chief scientific officer. Hughes is also retaining the president’s title in the shift at Zafgen. Hughes says he’s happy with the change-up, noting: “We are ramping up our clinical activities with ZGN-1061 now in Phase 2, and have two preclinical candidates that are advancing toward the clinic. We also have exciting new insights into the MetAP2 pathway that warrant an increased commitment to advance our understanding of its therapeutic potential and develop new drugs leveraging its impact.”

→ Amgen CEO Robert Bradway was named chairman-elect of PhRMA effective immediately. Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt will become chairman-elect and James Robinson, president, Astellas Americas, will assume the role of board treasurer effective February 7, 2018.

→ Roche vet Nicola Thompson is taking the CEO post at VirionHealthLaura Lane is on board as  COO. Abingworth has handed over a £13 million Series A to the company for its work on new drugs for respiratory viral infections.  “We are delighted to receive this support and will use the funds to advance our novel programmes into the clinic,” said Jeffrey Almond, who just joined as chairman of VirionHealth. “Upper respiratory tract infections remain an important unmet need which includes an estimated 1 billion cases of influenza across the globe each year.”

→ Trevana chief scientific officer Michael Lark is headed to the exit in mid-December. Twenty-one staffers largely from the research arm are also being cut — 30% of its total workforce.

Dublin-based Malin is tapping more of Andrew von Eschenbach’s time. The former FDA chief has signed on as chief medical adviser to the biotech investor, after a stint in the somewhat less formal position of advisory partner. Von Eschenbach was head of the National Cancer Institute for the four years prior to taking the reins at the FDA from 2006 to 2009 under President George W. Bush. He’s now also a senior fellow at the Milken Institute and president of Samaritan Health Initiatives.

→ Ex-JPMorgan exec and newly minted venture exec Stephen Berenson is joining the board at Moderna, where Flagship chief Noubar Afeyan is chairman of the board. Berenson joined Flagship as an executive partner last summer after wrapping a stint as vice chairman of investment banking.

→ Michael C. Diem is Amicus Therapeutics’ new SVP of corporate development. His previous gigs include AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline. “I am pleased to welcome Dr. Mike Diem to our senior leadership team at Amicus,” said Amicus CEO John Crowley. “Mike will be a key leader for Amicus as we evaluate strategies to enhance our portfolio of leading edge rare disease medicines and technologies. He will be extremely valuable to Amicus as we continue to build a top global biotechnology company focused on devastating rare diseases.”

→ Amyris has taken on Eduardo Alvarez as their chief operating officer.

→ Menlo Ventures has added Greg Yap as a partner, he will be focusing on life science, health and medical investing.


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