Centessa gives Antoine Yver a new role, brings his old colleague on board; Prelude to a change: Jane Huang sets up her next move
→ Centessa looked to Daiichi Sankyo to fill the CMO post with Antoine Yver back in May 2021, and now that Yver has garnered a new title, why mess with a good thing?
Yver has been installed as chairman of development, and Centessa is going back to the Enhertu well again by appointing Javad Shahidi as CMO. While Yver was head of oncology R&D at Daiichi Sankyo, Shahidi was the global team leader for Enhertu at the AstraZeneca partner. “I look forward to working with Javad again as we continue to grow Centessa with this incredible portfolio of assets and come closer to bringing impactful new medicines to patients,” Yver said in a statement.
Shahidi also led clinical development of Alimta and Portrazza during a three-year run at Eli Lilly.
→ Endpoints News discussed Jane Huang’s resignation as CMO of hematology at BeiGene last week, and her destination has been confirmed: Starting April 4, Huang will be president and CMO of Wilmington, DE-based Prelude Therapeutics, the OrbiMed-backed cancer biotech whose shares have taken a nose-dive since its September 2020 Nasdaq debut in the midst of the IPO-palooza. Huang, one of our Women in Biopharma R&D honorees for 2021, worked on such recognizable drugs as Rituxan, Avastin and Kadcyla at Genentech before spending a year with Acerta Pharma as head of clinical development and later joining BeiGene in 2016.
→ J&J has named Wendy Sussman head of pharmaceuticals for US federal affairs, who pivots to the pharma giant after four years at EMD Serono as VP & head, US healthcare government & public affairs. Sussman, the ex-VP of public affairs for Novartis’ generics crew at Sandoz, will also be primary liaison to PhRMA. Last week J&J notched a win with regulators for its BCMA CAR-T alongside its partners at Legend, and a win in the courtroom involving its “Texas two-step” bankruptcy case.
→ Partnering with Eisai on drug discovery for such diseases as Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies — and chaired by Radius Health’s top dog Kelly Martin — UK-based neuro biotech Wren Therapeutics has tapped Bart Henderson as CEO. The founder and ex-president of Rhythm Pharmaceuticals and Motus Therapeutics, Henderson’s also been chief executive at what’s now known as Repertoire Immune Medicines from 2017-19. After Repertoire’s name change from Torque, Henderson was an operating partner at Flagship Pioneering.
→ According to a Form 8-K, Gina Consylman is on her way out as bluebird bio’s CFO effective April 2, while CBO Jason Cole is set to replace her. Once the belle of the gene therapy ball, bluebird’s mounting financial quandary is such that it “raise[s] substantial doubt regarding its ability to continue as a going concern,” which doesn’t seem to square with CEO Andrew Obenshain’s declaration of 2022 as a “landmark year” in the same release. For that to happen, bluebird needs to quit shooting itself in the foot with PDUFA delays and clinical holds in addition to finding a remedy to the cash problems. Consylman had only been CFO since last August and came to bluebird after serving as finance chief of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals.
→ The Maraganore Meter is back in working order as ex-Alnylam chief John Maraganore becomes strategic advisor to the supervisory board at ProQR, a startup that needed some good news after its lead asset sepofarsen bellyflopped in a Phase II/III trial for Leber congenital amaurosis last month.
Meanwhile, Al Sandrock has yet to catch up with Maraganore in the appointment department, but he can probably hold his own as he joins the board of directors at Atalanta Therapeutics, the neuro-focused siRNA biotech partnering with Genentech and Sandrock’s old company, Biogen. This further adds to the opportunities that have opened up for Sandrock after his departure as Biogen’s R&D chief, including board seats at Voyager and Verge Genomics.
→ Jonathan Javitt has retired as CEO of NRx (shortened from NeuroRx) but he won’t wander off too far, taking on a consultancy gig as “chief scientist.” “Dr. Javitt will remain on the Board of Directors,” the release states, “but will no longer be responsible for company operations or day-to-day management.” Head of operations and chief commercial officer Robert Besthof, a longtime Pfizer vet, takes on the role of interim CEO as NRx wages a court battle with Relief Therapeutics over the Covid-19 drug they partnered on, aviptadil.
→ Serge Messerlian has left Big Pharma behind to lead a company of his own, grabbing the CEO job at GPCR upstart Teon Therapeutics out of San Francisco. Messerlian — the ex-president of Actelion and a 17-year vet of Baxter and Baxalta — breaks away from J&J’s Janssen, where he was president of the US oncology unit. He replaces co-founder and acting chief executive Lina Yao as she slides into the role of CSO. Messerlian talked to Endpoints earlier this week about the “fantastic opportunity to join the team and help catalyze the effort there.”
→ Berkeley Lights started the year off by reassigning CEO Eric Hobbs, who’s officially the president of antibody therapeutics now that the digital cell biology outfit has lined up Siddhartha Kadia as the next chief executive. A board member at Berkeley Lights since September, Kadia was president and CEO of EAG Laboratories from 2014-18 and also has board seats at IsoPlexis and NuVasive, among others. Berkeley Lights will also be searching for a new CFO, as Kurt Wood announces his departure “to pursue his expressed interest in a role outside of the biotech industry” effective April 1.
→ MiroBio, the Oxford spinout helmed by first-year CEO and Novartis alum Carolin Barth, has installed Sanjay Keswani as CMO and promoted Lynne Murray to CSO. Keswani, the ex-Roche SVP and global head of neuroscience, ophthalmology and rare diseases research and early development, and the former VP, exploratory and clinical translational research with Bristol Myers Squibb, had been CMO for Annexon Biosciences since June 2019. Murray joined MiroBio in October 2020 as SVP of R&D after she was head of regeneration at AstraZeneca’s early respiratory & immunology department.
→ Orna Therapeutics, the aptly named MPM-seeded startup developing circular RNA (oRNA) programs, has welcomed William Shen as CBO. Shen, the former head of M&A and interim head of corporate development at Biogen, had recently been COO of Virtuoso Therapeutics for a brief period and was an M&A lead during his five years at Bristol Myers, which jumped on the Orna bandwagon with such big names as NIBR, Kite and Astellas for the company’s Series A in February 2021. Elsewhere at Orna, ex-Novartis Pharmaceuticals CEO Thomas Ebeling has been added to the board of directors.
→ Inozyme, the developer of enzyme replacement therapies from the IPO Class of 2020, has added two members to its executive team: Sanjay Subramanian has taken over as CFO, and Soojin Kim has been appointed SVP and chief technical operations officer, a position formerly held by Steven Jungles, who has announced his retirement. Prior to joining Inozyme, Subramanian served as CFO and head of corporate development at Ocugen. Kim most recently served as SVP and site head of the bio plant complex at Hanmi Pharmaceutical.
→ One of Jennifer Doudna’s CRISPR startups, Alameda, CA-based Scribe Therapeutics, has corralled David Parrot as CFO and George Manning as controller. Parrot hails from Barclays, where he was a managing director and head of West Coast life Science investment banking. Previously at Allogene, Manning was senior director and assistant controller before turning the page at Scribe, which was also co-founded by Benjamin Oakes, Brett Staahl and David Savage — and racked up $100 million in a Series B last March. Concurrent with the raise, Behzad Aghazadeh from Avoro and Carl Gordon of OrbiMed became members of Scribe’s board of directors.
→ Launched last month with ex-Audentes chief Natalie Holles at the controls and raking in a new nine-figure round of funding to push its lead candidates for chronic urticaria into the clinic, Third Harmonic Bio has selected Robert Ho as CFO. The Morgan Stanley vet had held the same post at Neoleukin Therapeutics the past two years and he’s also been senior finance director for DaVita.
→ Gene therapy developer Coda Biotherapeutics, Mike Narachi’s latest project after selling Orexigen that focuses on neuro conditions like neuropathic pain and epilepsy, has appointed Susan Catalano as CSO. Catalano co-founded Cognition Therapeutics in 2007 and was chief scientist for the Alzheimer’s biotech, which landed on Nasdaq in October 2021 with a nothing-fancy IPO. Prior to Cognition, the Roche and Rigel alum was director of discovery biology at Acumen Pharmaceuticals. A cadre of investors led by Pacira BioSciences put up $28 million of financing in December as Coda made Pacira CEO David Stack a member of the board of directors.
→ Hearing gene therapy company Akouos is bringing in Aaron Tward as CSO. Tward joined the Boston-based company in 2018 as part of its scientific advisory board. Tward served as an associate professor of otolaryngology — head and neck surgery at UCSF and previously had a 6-year stint at the Broad Institute.
→ Reneo Pharmaceuticals rolled onto Nasdaq in April 2021 before a bear market squelched the desire for more companies to do the same, and this week the mitochondrial disease biotech has promoted Michael Cruse to COO and Jennifer Lam to principal financial and accounting officer. Cruse, the former SVP of corporate operations at Reneo since December 2020, has held senior positions before at Avanir Pharmaceuticals and Eledon Pharmaceuticals (back when it was Otic Pharma and then Novus Therapeutics). Lam just became VP of finance and accounting at Reneo six months ago after her posts at Amplyx, where she was controller and then VP of finance at the company Pfizer bought last April.
→ Monique Bobadilla has signed on to be chief people and culture officer with Chris Varma-led Frontier Medicines, the South San Francisco upstart striving for the next big thing in KRAS after the approval of Amgen’s Lumakras. Before setting off for Frontier — which netted $88.5 million for those KRAS ambitions with a Series B last July — Bobadilla held the same title at Encoded and also spent more than a decade in human resources at Genentech.
→ Cell therapy startup Clade Therapeutics has poached Derek Hei from Vertex, naming him chief technology officer. For the last year, Hei had been Vertex’s SVP of preclinical and clinical manufacturing, cell and gene therapies, and from 2017-21 he was a manufacturing exec at BlueRock Therapeutics. Clade, established by Sana and CRISPR Therapeutics co-founder Chad Cowan, entered the iPSC fray with a $87 million Series A back in November.
→ UK-based biotech NanoSyrinx, which touts itself as “the first company to engineer protein ‘nanosyringes’ as a cell-selective non-viral peptide and protein delivery system,” has brought on Marie McAvoy as CSO. Prior to joining NanoSyrinx, McAvoy was senior director of the oncology cell therapy research unit as GlaxoSmithKline. She has also served as GSK’s director, head translational research, cell and gene therapy.
→ Cerevel schizophrenia partner Herophilus has recruited Scott Saywell as CBO. Saywell began his tenure at Theravance Biopharma in 2015 as senior director, business development, getting elevated to VP, corporate development and strategy in 2019 before heading to Herophilus, a San Francisco biotech that also notably hired CSO Sharath Hegde from Recursion and head of chemistry Brad Savall from Plexium.
→ AVM Biotechnology is locking in Brian Andersen as CCO and Pearl Chan as CFO. Andersen joins with experience from his times at Vidara Therapeutics (co-founder), Pharmacia, Dendreon and Horizon Therapeutics under his belt, while Chan has served as CFO at PicMonkey and NetMotion Software among others.
→ Watertown, MA-based Eyepoint Pharmaceuticals has appointed Isabelle Lefebvre as chief regulatory officer, taking over the position from John Weet, who had been SVP, regulatory since August 2018. Most recently, Lefebvre was VP, head of regulatory science at Hengrui USA, and she’s also held senior regulatory positions at Lundbeck, Bausch Health Companies and Bristol Myers.
→ Gaurav Shah’s team at Rocket Pharmaceuticals is go for launch with Jessie Yeung as VP of investor relations and corporate finance. Yeung was head of corporate finance and investor relations for Legend, and she also brings financial experience from JP Morgan and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The Phase I trial for Rocket’s drug RP-A501, a gene therapy for Danon disease, is in full swing again after the FDA lifted a clinical hold in August 2021.
→ Cancer outfit Sensei Biotherapeutics has tapped Bill Ringo as chairman of the board. Ringo, who also chairs the board for John McHutchison at Assembly Biosciences, is a 30-year Eli Lilly vet who was Pfizer’s SVP of strategy and business development from 2008-10. Not included in the release is the arrival of SVP of cancer immunology Hanspeter Waldner, who’s held senior immunology leadership roles at BlueRock Therapeutics and CRISPR Therapeutics.
→ Not long after Harlan Waksal assumed the role of chairman, Lyra Therapeutics has made room for one-time Biogen CEO Jim Tobin on the board of directors. Tobin became CEO of Boston Scientific for 10 years after his stint as Biogen chief from 1997-99.
→ Diana Brainard has made her way to the board of directors at Affinia, the second move involving the AAV gene therapy company in as many weeks after co-founder Robert Johnson became CEO of Adrestia. Brainard, the former virology chief at Gilead, has been CEO at AlloVir for almost a full year.
→ San Diego-based January Therapeutics has signed on Christopher LeMasters to its board of directors. LeMasters just finished a stint as COO of Amplyx, where he helped lead the aforementioned sale of the company and its lead antifungal to Pfizer. Prior to that, LeMasters was EVP and CBO of Mirati Therapeutics.
→ Ex-Moderna chief commercial officer Corinne Le Goff is saying yes to a board appointment as independent director at Paris-based Acticor Biotech. Le Goff has quite a few stints under her belt including roles at Aventis, Pfizer, Merck, Roche and Amgen.
→ Artiva Biotherapeutics, which executed the 1-2 punch of a CAR-NK pact with Merck and a nine-figure Series B within weeks of each other in early 2021, has added Laura Bessen to the board of directors. Bessen was head of US medical to cap off a 15-year tenure at Bristol Myers.
→ Former Five Prime CFO David Smith has been tacked on to the board of directors at Danish IDO/PD-L1 cancer vaccine player IO Biotech, which hit Nasdaq last fall. Five Prime and its anti-FGFR2b antibody bemarituzumab were sold to Amgen right around this time last year for $2 billion.
→ A month after Bernard Lambert took the chief technology officer job at Curie Therapeutics, the radiopharma player has elected Karen Smith to the board of directors. Smith is a Big Pharma vet from Bristol Myers and AstraZeneca as well as the ex-CMO and global head of R&D at Jazz Pharmaceuticals.
→ Houston-based Moleculin Biotech is tacking on Joy Yan to its board of directors. This isn’t Yan’s first board appointment, as she currently serves as independent board director at Checkmate Pharmaceuticals. Yan brings with her experience from her times at Ambrx (CMO and member of the SAB), Bristol Myers, Janssen and Bayer.
→ Kenota Health is adding two new faces to its board of directors with the appointments of Ruth Abdulmassih and Dennis Flannelly. Abdulmassih is the CEO of Alternative Biomedical Solutions, while Flannelly is the head of precision medicine for US oncology at Merck. Prior to his current role at Merck, Flannelly was VP and general manager of immunodiagnostics at PerkinElmer and global head of marketing for Thermo Fisher Scientific’s immunodiagnostics business.
→ HCB Health president Nancy Beesley has pulled up a chair at the board of directors of Dermavant, the tapinarof maker trying to stand out in the plaque psoriasis market. Beesley joined HCB Health nearly 20 years ago as chief commercial officer and was named president in 2019.
→ Juhyun Lim has made her way to the board of directors at Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, a company that eliminated a third of its workforce to start 2022 and will see its CFO Kurt Gustafson walk out the door. Lim is the president, global strategy and planning for Hanmi Science and Hanmi Pharmaceutical.