Peer Review

Cell Medica scoops Kite Pharma’s Chris Nowers as CEO; Shire vet jumps to EdiGene as CEO

→ With several of Cell Medica’s programs on track for clinical trials, Gregg Sando has decided it’s time to pass the reins at the biotech he founded 12 years ago. The new CEO is Chris Nowers, a Bristol-Myers vet and one-time biotech CEO who jumps from Kite Pharma. In that role, he headed up the European operation and commercialization efforts for Kite’s Yescarta. He is now expected to leverage that experience to drive Cell Medica’s own CAR and TCR programs, some of which are developed in collaboration with academic partners in London (where it’s headquartered) and Houston (where it has offices).

→ Another Chinese banker is making the jump to biotech as Shanghai-based I-Mab Biopharma woos Jefferies’ Asia head Jielun Zhu to be its CFO. Zhu has a coveted resume: he led a number of IPOs and M&A deals at Jefferies’ Hong Kong office at a time China’s fledgling biotech scene is maturing and the city in particular is garnering interest as a nascent biotech IPO destination. Before moving into banking, he had a career in strategy consultant which led him to biopharma clients in the US. That’s all relevant for I-Mab, which recently closed a $220 million C round to fund its in-licensing business model.

Dong Wei

→ Hong Kong-based EdiGene has appointed former Shire R&D exec Dong Wei to serve as the company’s new CEO. The company, which has a US presence in Cambridge, MA, is developing a pipeline in genetic diseases and cancer, along with CRISPR/Cas 9-based drug discovery services.

“Genome editing is revolutionizing drug development in multiple aspects,” Wei said in a statement. “With its deep science and proprietary platforms, EdiGene is uniquely positioned in this rapid advancing field. It is a privilege to work with such an excellent team to develop innovative options for patients in China and the world.”

Wei comes from Treos Bio, where he was COO. Before that, he was the global development leader of late-stage development programs at Shire, senior director of business operation and program management at Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center and held various R&D and business positions at companies including BioMarinElan, and Janssen.

Lawrence Kenyon has officially been appointed the president and CEO of Oncobiologics after filling the role ad interim for two months. In addition to spearheading the biotech’s new lead program into the clinic and directing strategy, Kenyon will continue exercising his CFO duties — the position he first took when he joined the company in 2015 — until a replacement is found. Doubling up shouldn’t be a challenge for Kenyon, who’s previously had stints as CFO/COO at Arno Therapeutics and CEO/CFO at Tamir Biotechnology. Cranbury, NJ-based Oncobiologics, which was founded as a biosimilar developer, recently added a novel monoclonal antibody to its pipeline.

→ South San Francisco’s Tenaya Therapeutics has tapped Genzyme vet Faraz Ali to take over the startup as CEO. JJ Kang, the Column Group principal who served as founding president, will remain on the board. Like Regenxbio, where Ali most recently worked as chief business officer, Tenaya has a lead program in gene therapy. Unlike Regenxbio, it’s laser focused on developing regenerative therapies for heart failure, based on science out of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease.

→ Oncorus, a Cambridge, MA-based biotech focused on oncolytic viruses, has snagged Moderna’s chief of oncology development for the helm. Ted Ashburn is taking the CEO’s spot while Oncorus’ co-founder and MPM Capital managing director Mitchell Finer will call the strategic shots as executive chairman. Ashburn got his MD at Harvard Med and went on to work at several big organizations, including Pfizer and Sanofi/Genzyme.

→ Contract manufacturer Cytovance Biologics has named Yan Wang, who’s also leading its sister company Scientific Protein Laboratories, to the top job. With a background in both research and business development, Wang has been on Cytovance’s board since 2015 and in fact recently became its interim CEO before going official.

→ As CANbridge Life Sciences gears up for a pivot to commercialization — with its newly approved therapy for cancer treatment-related oral mucositis — it’s poached longtime Pfizer exec May Orfali to lead its clinical operations. While the Beijing-based biotech is planning several trials in China, the new CMO will stay in Cambridge, MA and oversee drug development on both sides of the Pacific from CANbridge’s US outpost. Canbridge execs like her track record in a similar role at Pfizer’s rare disease unit, and are counting on her to bring Nerlynx, the breast cancer drug they recently in-licensed from Puma, to the China market. Orfali succeeds Mark Goldberg, who was brought in by his old colleague and Canbridge founder, James Xue. Goldberg will continue to advise the company.

Dan Chen, who at Genentech led the development of Tecentriq from start to post-market stardom, has taken the CMO’s job at IgM Biosciences in Mountain View, CA. Chen wasn’t just in charge of the Tecentriq program, which Roche devoutly believes is a blockbuster in the making, he also helped guide a series of alliances with key antibody developers around the world. That added experience that could come in handy on his new job. He is joining another Genentech vet, Bruce Heyt, who serves as chief scientific officer at IgM.

Chen told Endpoints News in an interview Thursday that when he first started working on Tecentriq, he was a team of 1. And after watching the clinical development team alone expand into the hundreds of staffers at Genentech over the years, he’s back at an N of 1, ready to start building a new team. Once again, he is looking to make some biotech history.

→ Having lined up two Phase III and several other studies, Retrophin $RTRX is now handing all of that responsibility to Noah Rosenberg, the new CMO they recruited from dermatology specialist Medimetriks Pharmaceuticals. At his new offices in San Diego, he will be looking at a pipeline of therapies targeting rare diseases such as the neurological disorder fosmetpantotenate for pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration (PKAN).

→ A decade after co-founding Sirnaomics and laying the foundation for its siRNA discovery platform, David Evans is returning full-time to take on the role of chief scientific officer. His mandate covers preclinical programs for antifibrosis and anticancer RNAi therapies — the latter of which he’s already been consulting for. The appointment likely means he will leave his job managing the In Vitro Screening labs for the Frederick National Lab for Cancer Research, but the serial entrepreneur said he’s ready to get more intimately engaged in delivering innovative therapeutics.

→ Three months after NewLink Genetics scrapped a combination program for its IDO pathway drug indoximod in the general rout that followed the failure of Incyte’s big IDO project for epacadostat, the biotech has slashed close to a third of its staff and reorganized the C-suite in a last stand effort to prove their therapy can work. CFO Jack Henneman resigned his position to become chief administrative officer as he plans his departure for later in the year. Chief commercial officer Brian Wiley left a few days ago. The Iowa-based company has made several promotions to fill the gap: Carl Langren to CFO; Lori Lawley to VP, finance and controller; and Brad Powers to general counsel.

→ Following a 10-year run around Bristol Myers Squibb’s various financial departments, Joshua Reed is starting fresh at Aldeyra Therapeutics $ALDX. Reed was brought in to replace outgoing CFO Stephen Tulipano as the Lexington, MA-based biotech anticipates some late-stage data in the coming year to prove its lead drug’s worth in treating various conditions arising from ocular inflammation. Before joining Bristol-Myers, Reed spent several years at JPMorgan Chase and Credit Suisse.

BioDelivery Sciences $BDSI has hired Thomas Smith away from pain management rival Charleston Laboratories, putting him in charge of medical affairs related to its approved products as well as its film delivery technology. Based in Raleigh, NC, the company markets, either itself or through out-licensing partners, three drugs for chronic pain, opioid dependence and cancer pain, respectively.

→ Marking another milestone in its entry to Japan, Belgium’s Promethera Biosciences has snatched former Mitsui Global Investment VC Mutsuki Takano to head up the Tokyo branch office it opened a few months ago. As general branch manager, Takano is tasked with driving product and corporate development in both Japan and the wider Asian region. Backed by European and Japanese VCs, Promethera is developing cell-based medicines for liver diseases.

→ Following a 20-year career in investment banking (spanning Stifel, UBS, Leerink and Morgan Stanley), Marc Grasso has taken a job (or two?) as CFO and CBO of Kura Oncology $KURA. He will head a finance team built up by Heidi Henson in the four years since the biotech’s inception. On the verge of a pivotal trial for its farnesyl transferase inhibitor tipifarnib, San Diego-based Kura has just recently hired a new COO from Celgene.

Bernstein’s longtime Big Pharma analyst Tim Anderson is headed to a new research firm that’s been attracting some attention recently. Anderson left Bernstein recently and is headed to Wolfe Research, where he will begin in September. The website cites their coverage of “about 36 sub-sectors through 15 senior research analysts,” along with a 2016 and 2017 win as a top 15 group — by Institutional Investor. The scuttlebutt around the analyst community is that Wolfe now wants to build the next Bernstein.

And Anderson tells Endpoints Editor John Carroll via LinkedIn that he’s looking forward to the move, noting:

Yes, I am moving on. Fundamentals are tough on the sell-side, but the place I am going to (Wolfe Research) has managed to find itself in the sweet spot where they are gaining share, and are able to grow the business at a time when many others others are having to contract. Good to be in growth mode! I will not officially emerge at Wolfe until late September.

Roy Baynes has taken a board seat at DNA-testing company Natera, contributing his oncology expertise outside his day job as CMO of Merck.

Robert Ashworth is the new VP, regulatory, at OncoSec, arriving at a time the microcap biotech $ONCS preps for several development milestones in the near-term. One of them will be a Phase II trial that tests its investigational ImmunoPulse IL-12 combined with Keytruda, which showed early promise in a previous readout. With the experience and skills he gained at Advaxis, NPS Pharma and Otsuka, Ashworth will lead OncoSec’s regulatory strategy in addition to interacting with regulators and partners worldwide.

→ Now that it’s initiated its first BLA submission, Enzyvant — the rare disease-focused member of Vivek Ramaswamy’s ever-expanding Vant family — has hired two execs to help lead what they see as a period of growth. Shire vet Andrew Dawson has been named SVP of human resources. while Alex Tracy will become VP of pharmaceutical development and manufacturing. Before joining Enzyvant’s mother company Roivant, Tracy developed both small molecules and biologics at Novartis Vaccines and Hospira/Pfizer.

→ Newly public Provention Bio $PRVB now wants to turn its attention to its pipeline, and has appointed Mark Rigby to oversee clinical development of the type 1 diabetes treatments it had picked up from J&J. The new VP jumps from a role in the early development and translational medicine unit at J&J subsidiary Janssen.

→ Having pitched in at Tricida $TCDA as a consultant in the past few years, Dawn Parsell has been hired has SVP of clinical development, tasked with seeing the chronic kidney disease drug TRC-101 through an NDA as the company preps an accelerated approval pitch. If that goes through, she will also be in charge of running the postmarketing trial.


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