Blueprint Medicines gets more ducks in a row before CEO transition; Paul Stoffels has his work cut out for him at Gilead’s crumbling partner
→ When Jeff Albers announced he would no longer be CEO of Blueprint Medicines, the leadership carousel at the Aykakit maker had yet to wind down. Yes, Kate Haviland is next in line to replace Albers in April and Christina Rossi will succeed Haviland as COO, but who would fill Rossi’s position? The answers lies within the company again, as Philina Lee has been promoted to chief commercial officer and Helen Ho takes over CBO responsibilities.
In August 2014, Lee joined Blueprint as senior director, new product strategy and development, and she has since risen to SVP, head of portfolio strategy and program management. Ho, a veteran of TCR² Therapeutics and Agios Pharmaceuticals, became VP of corporate development at Blueprint in 2018 and will handle Lee’s portfolio strategy and program management duties in addition to corporate and business development.
→ If you didn’t have Paul Stoffels to Galapagos on your bingo card this week, we don’t blame you. On par with Hal Barron’s decision to leave GlaxoSmithKline and tackle the CEO job at Altos Labs, the Belgian biotech produced some shock waves on Wednesday with the news that Stoffels will take over as chief executive on April 1 after his retirement from J&J. Stoffels will try to apply a defibrillator to a company in desperate need of resuscitation now that the partnership with Gilead has collapsed under the weight of the filgotinib fail of 2020 and other deflating readouts from last year, making this a steep mountain to climb for the respected exec. Stoffels replaces Onno van de Stolpe, who saw the writing on the wall and announced last August that he would retire as Galapagos CEO.
→ After the Phase III study for metastatic pancreatic cancer at Rafael Holdings bellyflopped impressively in October 2021, CEO Ameet Mallik was initially supposed to cede the top spot to founder and chairman Howard Jonas. Instead, the CEO job will go to Bill Conkling, one of several execs on the chopping block in the first place. Conkling, ex-VP of sales, marketing, market access and commercial operations at Immunomedics, had taken on the roles of chief commercial and business officer last March and will take the helm on Feb. 1.
That’s not all from Rafael: Rick Ewing has stepped in to lead drug discovery, and effective this coming Monday, CMO Mimi Huizinga will take the exit ramp. Ewing rides into Rafael after a 21-year career at Bristol Myers Squibb, where he was recently senior director, small molecule drug discovery.
→ In a Hail Mary attempt to nurse the remaining bits of its image back to health, CytoDyn has fired CEO Nader Pourhassan — the executive responsible for guiding the disastrous R&D effort and PR campaign for leronlimab, an investigational drug the company has pitched as a potential therapy for cancer, Covid-19 and HIV. In the interim, CFO Antonio Migliarese will be taking up the mantle, while the company searches for a more permanent replacement with the “requisite pharmaceutical industry experience to enhance the Company’s efforts to achieve regulatory approval and commercialization of leronlimab.” Leronlimab, once pitched as a potential “pipeline-in-a-product” for CytoDyn, has landed the company into a lot of hot water with the DOJ and SEC as they are still investigating whether the biotech actively looked to fool investors about the state of its drug’s chances.
→ Is there an ongoing purge at Biogen? There are signs pointing in this direction, with one source telling Endpoints News a couple months ago “we are losing people left and right” at the company that’s become infamous for its Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm. Case in point: Biogen’s global Alzheimer’s lead Johanna Rossell has bolted to fill Enzyvant’s chief commercial officer post. After a decade at Novartis, Rossell was Merck’s US biosimilars head, immunology and then the VP of new products at Mallinckrodt before joining Biogen in 2019. Rossell will steer commercialization efforts for Enzyvant’s congenital athymia drug Rethymic, which was approved by the FDA in October 2021.
→ Biogen’s Alzheimer’s partner Eisai, which also teams up with Merck on a Keytruda/Lenvima combo, has enlisted Tricia Brooks as VP & head of office, government affairs and policy. Brooks, who spent nearly nine years with Novo Nordisk in public affairs, jumps to Eisai after a fairly short stay as VP, government affairs & policy at Ardelyx, a biotech trying to recover from last year’s CRL and two drastic reductions in its staff.
→ Time to play another game of “What’s Brent Saunders Up To Now?” This week, Saunders has been added to the board of directors at Osmind, a San Francisco healthcare company “building the first digital infrastructure for neuropsychiatry” that scored a modest Series A round in July 2021. In one of his first post-Allergan moves, Saunders also joined the board of OcuTerra last May when few people knew anything at all about the ophthalmic disease biotech. His appointment follows that of Osmind’s chief growth officer Adam Farren and two new members of the scientific advisory board, Maurizio Fava and Boris Heifets.
→ Partnering with Eli Lilly on cancer drug zenocutuzumab — which had a data reveal at ASCO last summer — Dutch biotech Merus has appointed Shannon Campbell as chief commercial officer to carve out zeno’s commercialization strategy. Campbell shifts to Merus after leading the US solid tumor franchise at Novartis since 2017, and she was also head of the US oncology business during her 12 years at Bayer. Merus and Lilly’s T cell engager deal, inked in January 2021, is worth up to $1.6 billion.
→ Cintia Piccina had only been with Nick Leschly’s bluebird bio spinoff 2seventy for a couple months before pivoting to a chief commercial officer gig at Adaptimmune, which plans to submit a BLA sometime this year for afami-cel. Before she was head of commercial at 2seventy, Piccina was at the forefront of the Abecma launch as bluebird’s SVP, commercial oncology and US general manager, and to cap off a 23-year career with Novartis, she was VP, global oncology cell and gene strategy & program management office, for Kymriah and the rest of the Swiss pharma’s CAR-T pipeline.
→ They’ll be there for you: Hoping that new TV ads with Jennifer Aniston can boost sales of its newly-approved insomnia drug Quviviq, Idorsia has promoted Guy Braunstein to CMO and Alberto Gimona to head of global clinical development. Braunstein had led global clinical development from the beginning at Idorsia and since the Actelion days, going back to 2009. Gimona’s association with CEO Jean-Paul Clozel also dates back to Actelion, sliding into Braunstein’s old job after nearly three years as head of therapeutic area units.
→ Asher Biotherapeutics, an IL-2 biotech backed by Third Rock and RA Capital which lists the Netherlands Cancer Institute’s Ton Schumacher as one of its scientific founders, has a parade of new execs, starting with CBO Don O’Sullivan. This is O’Sullivan’s first C-suite post after more than 11 years at Roche/Genentech, where he was VP, global head of oncology partnering. Next, James Cross (VP, regulatory affairs) had been running his own consulting firm after his year-long stints as executive director of regulatory affairs for Halozyme and head of regulatory affairs with Forty Seven. Finally, Florence Zhu (VP, finance) is another Forty Seven alum who was VP of finance and corporate controller at Olema Oncology.
→ Flagship Pioneering has made Tom DiLenge senior partner, global public policy, regulatory & governmental strategy. DiLenge joins Noubar Afeyan’s troops after more than 15 years at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) that concluded in May 2021 as president of the Advocacy, Law & Public Policy Division.
→ San Francisco AI player Atomwise has a stacked slate of hires, and CSO David Thomson bats leadoff. Thomson — the ex-head of research and nonclinical development at Shire — has made the leap to Atomwise from Precision BioSciences, where he was chief development officer and then COO during a four-year run. Next, CFO Jonathan Barr is a Juno vet who was recently VP of finance and operations at BridgeBio, while new general counsel and corporate secretary Jeffrey Cerio just held the same posts at Triplet Therapeutics and was Moderna’s senior corporate counsel, securities. One other note: Atomwise has also made room for Lori Kunkel and Ron Dror on its board of directors.
→ Another biotech with Third Rock ties, kidney disease player Goldfinch Bio, has tapped Edwin Tucker as CMO. Tucker, the medical chief at Mirum Pharmaceuticals since October 2019, has also played a central role in the US approval of Calquence as COO at Acerta Pharma. Goldfinch Bio’s lead asset GFB-887 targets focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and diabetic nephropathy, and the biotech is shooting to read out data for the drug this year along with another candidate, GFB-024.
→ Cloud-based R&D startup Benchling, which tacked on a $100 million Series F round back in November, has snared Paul Robson as president of field operations. Robson had spent the last decade at Adobe and was president of the company’s international business since 2019. Also, Benchling has given former Axiom CEO Elena Donio a seat at the board of directors.
→ Peter Thiel–backed peptide player Peptilogics out of Pittsburgh (say that five times fast) has promoted Nicholas Nystrom to chief technology officer. Nystrom became head of computation and data at Peptilogics in early 2021 after he spent 28 years at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, working his way up to interim director and later chief scientist.
→ Regenerative medicine company Athersys has locked in Daniel Camardo as CEO — taking over for interim CEO William Lehmann, who will continue serving as the company’s president and COO. Camardo comes to the Cleveland-based company from Horizon Therapeutics, where he currently serves as EVP and head of the rare disease and inflammation business units. Additionally, Camardo has served at Astellas, where he helped drive the commercial business from US market entry to more than $3.5 billion in annual net sales driven by a portfolio of specialty and rare disease medicines.
→ Martire Particco has become the new CMO at Napo Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Jaguar Health. For the last five years, Particco served as VP, head of medical affairs for Europe for Shionogi Europe. Particco was senior medical director for biotechnology at the tail end of her time with Pfizer/Wyeth, and she’s also been director of global pharmacovigilance, medical & clinical affairs for Kedrion Biopharma.
→ Pete Salzmann-led Immunovant has pegged Mark Levine as chief legal officer, several months after bringing CFO Renee Barnett into the fold. Levine has served as general counsel and corporate secretary at Flexion Therapeutics and Minerva Neurosciences before heading to Immunovant, which is poised to initiate a Phase III trial in the first half of this year for its myasthenia gravis drug batoclimab.
→ According to its website, UK-Austria antifungal biotech F2G has retooled its C-suite a bit with Mark Baglin as chief commercial officer and Janelle Anderson as CBO. Baglin was in charge of the hereditary angioedema franchise at Shire before kickstarting a four-year run at Alnylam, where he got elevated to SVP, head of marketed products. Anderson is the former chief strategy officer at Century Therapeutics, which made a $150 million cell therapy deal with Bristol Myers earlier this month. In other F2G news, Sylvie Gregoire — the ex-president of Shire’s rare disease division and the current executive chair of EIP Pharma — is now a member of the board of directors.
→ Galapagos’ idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis partner OncoArendi Therapeutics has brought on Samson Fung as CMO. After a myriad of roles at such Big Pharmas as Roche, Novartis and AstraZeneca, Fung has held leadership posts at argenx, Micromet and MorphoSys. Rafal Kaminski just left OncoArendi to become chief scientist at Angelini Pharma.
→ Chinese biotech Brii Biosciences — which stood by its Covid-19 antibody cocktail’s ability to fight against the Omicron variant even though one of the antibodies showed a drop in activity when it was tested alone — has reeled in Karen Neuendorff as chief people officer and head of human resources. Neuendorff joins the company from WeDriveU, where she served as SVP, human resources. Prior to that, she had a 14-year stint as VP, global human resources at Nexant.
→ Flagship “intersystems” player Senda Biosciences, which enjoyed a $98 million Series B haul last June, has recruited Stuart Milstein as SVP and head of platform biology. Milstein led the RNAi lead development group during his 11-year tenure at Alnylam, and since 2019 he had served as VP of platform biology at the Nessan Bermingham RNA editing startup Korro Bio.
→ Seattle kidney disease biotech Chinook Therapeutics makes its first Peer Review appearance since the appointment of CFO Eric Bjerkholt, naming Charlotte Jones-Burton SVP of product development and strategy. Before her recent stint as VP of global clinical development and head of nephrology at Otsuka, Jones-Burton gained Big Pharma experience at Merck and as global development team leader for the cardiovascular area during her eight years at Bristol Myers.
→ Next-gen cancer immunotherapy player BioEclipse Therapeutics has brought on Stephen Ghiglieri, a managing director for the West Coast Region at Danforth Advisors, as interim CFO. Ghilglieri has worn the CFO hat before while running stints at Oacis Healthcare Systems, Avolent, NeurogesX, MedData, Galena BioPharma and Covalent Health.
In addition, the company has also welcomed Mahmoud Mahmoudian to its board of directors. Mahmoudian hails from Sumitomo Oncology, where he served as SVP and head of global oncology external innovation hub. Earlier in his career, Mahmoudian had roles at Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Merck and GSK.
→ Brad Savall has signed on to be VP and head of chemistry at Herophilus, the California neuro upstart that nabbed CSO Sharath Hegde from Recursion last May. Savall just had a lightning-quick stay as director of medicinal chemistry at Plexium (now helmed by Astellas vet Percival Barretto-Ko) and has also been a medicinal chemistry leader at J&J’s Janssen.
→ Sudhir Rao has joined Boston-based RNA player Expansion Therapeutics, which just welcomed Gary Bridger to the board of directors, as SVP of business development. Rao is the former VP of business development for Genocea Biosciences, and he has also served as the director of R&D transactions at Takeda.
→ The US-UK CDMO Abzena has lassoed Jim Kennamer as SVP and site head of North Carolina, a facility we told you about in April 2021. Kennamer just spent six years at Immucor as VP of global manufacturing operations, and earlier he was VP of manufacturing at Talecris Biotherapeutics, continuing in the role when Grifols bought the plasma company in 2010.
→ San Diego RNA editing startup ADARx Pharmaceuticals follows up the appointment of CMO Hubert Chen by welcoming Christopher Claeboe as VP, CMC and manufacturing. Claeboe filled multiple roles in his four-plus years at ChemoCentryx, closing out his time at the avacopan developer as executive director, drug substance & drug product.
→ Nirdosh Jagota has been named SVP, regulatory affairs, compliance & safety at Ocugen, a gene therapy biotech that’s also trying its hand at a Covid-19 vaccine. Jagota’s time at Arcturus was fleeting, lasting only a handful of months as chief regulatory officer, and he’s also held regulatory posts in the land of pharma giants, including with Pfizer, Roche/Genentech and Merck.
→ San Diego CDMO Ajinomoto Bio-Pharma Services is bringing on Allergan vet Tony O’Neill as its VP of compliance, US operations. During his quarter century at Allergan, O’Neill’s roles included executive director, quality operations and executive director, risk management and compliance.
→ Former Karyopharm CEO Michael Kauffman has taken a seat on the board of directors at BiVictriX Therapeutics as an independent non-executive director. Prior to running the ship at Karyopharm, Kauffman was CMO at Onyx Pharmaceuticals and president and CEO of EPIX Pharmaceuticals. Kauffman’s other stints include roles at Millennium and Biogen.
→ Moderna’s chief development officer Melanie Ivarsson is making her way onto the board of directors at UK-based LoQus23 Therapeutics as a non-executive director. Prior to her current role at Moderna, Ivarsson has led a star-studded career with stints at Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Shire and Takeda.
→ Novo Ventures partner Kenneth Harrison has resigned from the board of directors at Reneo Pharmaceuticals, leaving a slot open for Paul Hoelscher. Reneo executive chairman Mike Grey and Hoelscher know each other from Horizon; Hoelscher has been Tim Walbert’s CFO since 2014. In other board news, Lon Cardon will serve out his term and then step down after becoming president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory.
→ Boston-based Ikena Oncology, which struck while the IPO iron was still hot last year, has elected Richard Wooster to the board of directors. The GSK oncology vet was previously the CSO of Translate Bio, which Sanofi purchased for $3.2 billion back in August.
→ Curt Medeiros and Gregg Givens have joined the board of directors at Kansas City, KS-based ADHD biotech Cingulate, a poster child for a flagging IPO landscape. Medeiros is the CEO of Ovation.io, where he also serves on the board. Prior to that, he was president of both Optum Analytics and Optum Advanced Data & Analytics. Givens has held the positions of SVP, CFO, and treasurer at DST Systems.
→ San Francisco-based Concentric Analgesics has signed on two new members to its board of directors with the appointments of former Gilead EVP and CCO Paul Carter and Jonathan Lynch. This isn’t Carter’s first rodeo in a board seat. He currently sits on the boards of HutchMed PLC, Mallinckrodt, Immatics, VectivBio and Evox Therapeutics. Meanwhile, Lynch currently manages Incisive Capital.