Peer Review

Celgene’s Michael Pehl leaps up to lead role at Immunomedics; GSK nabs Hal Barron to helm R&D; Aimmune CEO to step down

Michael Pehl

Michael Pehl will take the top job at Immunomedics next month after 11 years at Celgene, where he was most recently head of hematology and oncology. As president and CEO, his priority will be pushing for the approval and marketing of antibody-drug conjugate IMMU-132. On his side will be fellow Celgene vet Brendan Delaney, who has been named chief commercial officer.

Portola Pharmaceuticals has brought on John (Jack) Lawrence, previously VP and head of cardiovascular at Bristol-Myers Squibb, as CMO. “Jack’s reputation and achievements in global thrombosis product development and regulatory approvals will be valuable assets to Portola as we begin to launch betrixaban and prepare for the potential approval of andexanet in 2018,” said company $PTLA CEO William Lis in a statement. “We’re pleased to add his executive leadership and expertise to our management team to help us continue to advance Portola as a leading thrombosis and hematologic biotechnology company.”

→ In an apparent attempt to stir up its lackluster drug development, GlaxoSmithKline has recruited industry legend Hal Barron to replace Patrick Vallance (who left for a government job) as R&D chief. Departing from anti-aging startup Calico, Barron is the latest high profile ex-Googler to leave a Silicon Valley life science company.

→ Brisbane, CA-based Aimmune $AIMT CEO Stephen Dilly says he plans to step down by the end of 2018 so he can spend more time with his family. The biotech plans to mount a search for a new CEO. Dilly noted: “My decision to retire is based solely on my personal desire to have more time for my family, especially my eldest son, who has special needs. We are announcing this now in order to facilitate an orderly executive search and transition period, and I remain completely committed to continuing to lead Aimmune through the exciting events ahead. We are looking forward to the completion of our pivotal Phase 3 PALISADE trial around year-end and sharing top-line data in the first quarter of 2018.”

Translate Bio CEO Ron Renaud has recruited Agios vet Ann Barbier for the CMO position. Barbier had been vice president of clinical development, rare genetic diseases at Agios, a trendsetter in the Cambridge, MA biotech hub. Earlier, she had worked at Shire for 7 years. “With near-term clinical programs in cystic fibrosis and OTC deficiency, Translate Bio is approaching a critical and exciting time,” said Barbier.

Alder BioPharmaceuticals is parting ways with Timothy Whitaker a year and a half after appointing him as chief medical officer. Whitaker, a Shire vet, will work as a consultant for Alder $ALDR as it advances trials for epitinezumab and prepares to file a biologics license application for it in the second half of 2018 — something the company made sure to mention in the 8-K.

→ Cambridge, UK-based outsourced drug discovery and development company RxCelerate is opening an office in Cambridge, MA, and it has tapped Laura Hamilton to run its drug discovery and development operation there. Hamilton, whose official title is executive vice president of US operations, will leverage her connections she built over the years at the local trade association MassBio to introduce companies to RxCelerate’s services. CEO Jill Reckless expressed high hopes in a statement: “We are bringing RxCelerate’s unique model for out-sourced drug discovery and development to the heart of the largest and most vibrant life sciences cluster on the planet.”

Daniel O’Connor

→ Microcap biotech OncoSec $ONCS had quite a bit to celebrate this week: impressive data on its combo drug ImmunoPulse IL-12, came right at the heels of new CEO Daniel O’Connor’s appointment. O’Connor takes the reins from co-founder Punit Dhillon, and is expected to lead the company into commercial launch with his experience heading Advaxis as CEO.

→ Chief business and strategy officer Rachel McMinn has resigned from Intercept Pharmaceuticals, an SEC filing shows. Taking with her $5,000 in legal fees related to the separation agreement, the former biotech analyst will remain a special adviser to the company $ICPT until the end of the year.

David Recker, who’s spent time at Takeda and Vericel, is now the CMO at Neuralstem $CUR, the nervous system diseases biopharma slowly recuperating from a couple failures in July.

Mary Szela

→ After reorganizing Aegerion and leading the company through the merger with QLT that turned it into Novelion, CEO Mary Szela is leaving her position for personal reasons. Her resignation is effective immediately, and while the rare disease biotech $NVLN searches for a new CEO, a team of three execs will fill the office. Later this month, Murray Stewart will join as EVP and head of R&D, as the company prepares to launch Juxtapid in Japan and anticipates an EMA approval for metreleptin (Myalept) early next year.

→ As current chief operation officer Lynne Parshall transitions into a strategic adviser role at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Brett Monia, head of drug discovery, will assume the COO position. A founding member of Ionis $IONS, Monia also leads the inotersen program, which was filed for a marketing approval with the FDA earlier this week. His new responsibilities include moving research programs into development, regulatory, patient advocacy, human resources and business functions. “The board and I are confident that Brett is the ideal choice to be chief operating officer and is fully prepared to assume these new responsibilities,” said CEO Stanley Crooke in a statement.


With additional reporting from John Carroll

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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