CFO transition on the horizon at BioNTech as Sierk Poetting concentrates on COO duties; Centessa rides a wave of new execs after Antoine Yver's appointment
→ As its Covid-19 vaccine with Pfizer continues to inoculate millions, BioNTech is changing CFOs beginning July 1 with Jens Holstein stepping into the role previously occupied by Sierk Poetting, who will direct his full attention to his work as COO moving forward. Holstein was CFO at MorphoSys from 2011-20 and held a number of leadership roles within the Fresenius universe before that time.
Poetting has seen BioTech turn into a household name since his tenure began in 2014, and he’s been a crucial voice on the vaccine distribution efforts, indicating some weeks ago that BioNTech has held discussions on ramping up capacity. “There is still room for improvement. But that will ultimately also depend on demand,” Poetting told Reuters in late April.
→ The week after introducing Antoine Yver as CMO, Centessa is fleshing out the team with a flurry of new appointments, starting with chief technology officer Thomas Templeman. He comes to Centessa after nearly two years as Nuvation Bio’s SVP, pharmaceutical operations and quality, and his previous two gigs at Axovant (SVP, pharmaceutical operations and quality assurance) and Graybug Vision (COO) were brief stays. Chief quality officer Tia Bush embarks on a new chapter after a long career at Amgen that started in 1993, closing it out as chief quality officer and SVP, global quality/environment, health, safety and sustainability.
Two more execs are helping to formulate Centessa’s C-suite with David Chao as chief administrative officer and Marella Thorell as chief accounting officer. In Kansas City, Chao was president and CEO of both BioMed Valley Discoveries — headquartered near the Country Club Plaza in the American Century building — and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. Thorell scores a promotion after coming in January as head of finance, and she’s been CFO at Centessa subsidiary Palladio Bioscience and Realm Therapeutics, where she was also COO.
Formerly of Pfizer and Galderma, Carol Stuckley has been named to Centessa’s board of directors and chairs the audit committee.
→ Voyager is being left high and dry as its CEO and president Andre Turenne is jumping ship, resigning to “pursue other opportunities.” Turenne’s new gig will lead him to Europe, but his departure leaves the company at a crossroads as it decides to pivot back to discovery-stage efforts after a series of setbacks. In addition to Turenne’s departure, the company’s CMO and R&D chief Omar Khwaja also stepped down after two years at the biotech. The board is searching for Turenne’s replacement as chairman Michael Higgins will take over as interim CEO. Glenn Pierce, a board member and entrepreneur-in-residence at Third Rock, will serve as CMO.
→ Iovance just got doused with more cold water from the FDA for its tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy lifileucel after the agency asked for more potency assay data. With the BLA submission now slated for 2022, CEO Maria Fardis won’t be the one doing the waiting. Sneaking Fardis’ exit into an SEC filing, Iovance now turns to general counsel Frederick Vogt to be president and CEO in the interim. Fardis had helmed the company since 2016.
→ Placing an emphasis on the North American market, Merck KGaA is shoring up that team with Chris Round as president of EMD Serono in charge of the North America healthcare business, along with Andrew Paterson as chief marketing officer. Round has, with apologies to Joni Mitchell, looked through life from both Mercks — serving as the German Merck’s EVP, head of international operations & global core franchises just before this new assignment and holding leadership positions such as general manager of the oncology and immunology franchise at the NJ-based Merck. Paterson’s been with the pharma as SVP, global business franchise neurology & immunology, followed by a brief cup of coffee as president & head of global innovative medicine franchises.
→ Oxurion has promoted Tom Graney to steer the helm of the company as CEO — taking over for Patrik De Haes, who is moving into the role of non-executive chairman (succeeding Thomas Clay). Graney joined the company in October 2020 and served as CFO. Graney previously was CFO of Generation Bio, Vertex, Janssen, Ethicon and Tibotec. In addition, he was CFO and head of corporate strategy at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals.
→ Two of our stories from this week collide as one with Landos Biopharma — which announced its partnership with LianBio on Monday — reserving a spot for Tim Mayleben on the board of directors. Mayleben decided to step down as Esperion’s CEO on the same day the Landos-LianBio collaboration was revealed, leaving it to COO Sheldon Koenig to take control as sales of Nexletol have lagged.
→ A couple days ago, Percy Carter settled into his new role of chief scientist for Jeff Albers at Blueprint Medicines. Carter, who had most recently been CSO with FibroGen, has Big Pharma credentials from 18 years at Bristol Myers Squibb, where he was SVP and head of discovery, among other positions. He was also global head of discovery sciences for Janssen. With Ayvakit data that “probably exceeded our expectations” for advanced systemic mastocytosis in September, Blueprint is looking to outshine Novartis’ Rydapt in the indication.
→ It’s a union of company name and chief executive that should be destined not to walk the plank: OrbiMed-backed Sparrow Pharmaceuticals premiered this week with $54 million in Series A financing, and Robert Jacks has taken the reins as president and CEO. A one-time entrepreneur-in-residence at OrbiMed, Jacks cut his teeth at Pfizer, spending the tail end of his six-year run at the pharma giant as director of worldwide business development. Jacks co-founded Symbiomix Therapeutics and from 2018-20, he helmed Indalo Therapeutics.
→ After his election to the board of directors in April, Boston-based cardiopulmonary disease biotech Aerovate has tapped Timothy Noyes as CEO. Noyes, who put his career in gear with commercial roles at Merck in the 1990s, comes off a CEO stint with Arcuate Therapeutics and held the controls at Proteon Therapeutics for 13 years. Founded by Ben Dake, Aerovate emerged from stealth last August on a $72.6 million round to develop and run trials for pulmonary arterial hypertension candidate AV-101.
→ Here comes the Rain again: Robert Doebele made the transition from academia at the University of Colorado to becoming the CSO at Rain Therapeutics, which he co-founded with Avanish Vellanki and occupies a place on the list of 2021’s nine-figure IPOs. This week he can add president to his title, and Doebele’s promotion is far from the only one being doled out at the oncology biotech. Effective last Friday, four staffers have been elevated at Rain: Vijaya Tirunagaru (SVP and head of research); Kolbot By (SVP, technical operations); Lucio Tozzi (SVP, clinical operations); and Nelson Cabatuan (SVP, finance & administration).
→ San Francisco gene circuit shop Senti Bio has promoted Curt Herberts to COO and Philip Lee to chief technology officer, while bringing in Deborah Knobelman as CFO. Herberts has been up and down the C-suite at Senti Bio since his 2018 arrival, serving as CBO and CFO after he put an exclamation point on his eight years at Sangamo as CBO. He takes over for Lee, who left MilliporeSigma in 2016 to help co-found Senti Bio with MIT’s Tim Lu. Before starting at Senti Bio, which inked a $645 million pact with Spark a month ago, Knobelman had a previous CFO post with GeneriCo Pharmaceuticals and is ex-director, commercial strategy & analytics for Pfizer’s primary care business.
→ AavantiBio is living rent-free in Peer Review as the staff grows, with chief regulatory officer Jessie Hanrahan becoming the fifth senior exec in two months to make her home at the Cambridge, MA gene therapy player. Like David Davidson and Joanne Smith-Farrell before her, Hanrahan is in the club of folks who have left bluebird bio — as senior director and then VP of regulatory science, she worked on submitting the marketing authorization application for, and the approval of, Zynteglo. Since March, AavantiBio CEO Bo Cumbo has hired CFO Douglas Swirsky, COO Ty Howton, CMO Christopher Wright, and CTO Paul Herzich.
→ This being PGA Championship week, Fore Biotherapeutics is aiming straight down the middle of the fairway with the additions of Stacie Peacock Shepherd as CMO and Nora Brennan as CFO. Shepherd, an Abbott and AbbVie vet, comes to the Philadelphia oncology player from QED Therapeutics, spending a year there as SVP of clinical development. Brennan has CFO credits from TELA Bio and Xeris Pharmaceuticals. Lastly at Fore, ex-Proteostasis Therapeutics president and CEO Meenu Chhabra has jumped on to the board of directors.
→ Dale Sander is succeeding Doug Blankenship as CFO of Laura Niklason-led Humacyte, which vaulted onto Nasdaq in February in a $255 million SPAC deal with Rajiv Shukla. Sander, a board member at Humacyte since 2015, has also removed the “acting” label from his role of chief corporate development officer and will be Humacyte’s treasurer as well. Sander was most recently CFO of another North Carolina company, Bryn Pharma.
→ With its second Peer Review appearance in as many weeks, LogicBio has promoted Daniel Gruskin to CMO while naming Stephen Boyer VP of regulatory and quality affairs and Peter Pechan VP of gene therapy. Gruskin became LogicBio’s SVP and head of clinical development nine months ago after a run at Sanofi Genzyme that included getting bumped up to VP, head of global medical affairs, rare disease. Boyer had worked for a strong lineup of big names — Biogen, Bristol Myers, Boehringer Ingelheim and Bayer — before his most recent gig as head of regulatory at Boston Pharmaceuticals. And Pechan, who brings gene therapy experience from Biogen and Sanofi Genzyme, had been senior director of R&D and head of vector biology for Solid Biosciences.
→ Eli Lilly alum Debra Hussain has signed on as chief commercial officer for Acacia Pharma, which won two FDA approvals in 2020 — one for its intravenous formulation of amisulpride, and the other for remimazolam. With Acacia’s US headquarters in Indianapolis, Hussain stays in the Crossroads of America after more than 20 years at Lilly that saw her rise to senior director of marketing for the pharma giant.
→ Gaining breakthrough therapy designation by the FDA in December for its tyrosine kinase inhibitor repotrectinib to treat non-small cell lung cancer, San Diego’s Turning Point Therapeutics has selected Kumar Srinivasan as CBO. Srinivasan hails from AstraZeneca, where he concluded his nine years at the pharma giant as VP and global head of business development for the biopharmaceutical business unit.
→ Placenta-based CAR-T biotech Celularity (not to be confused with Flagship’s Cellarity) has enlisted Roche and Genentech vet Bradley Glover as chief technology officer. Glover makes the switch to the NK developer after four and a half years at Kite, serving as VP, corporate development, head of corporate strategy and operations before joining Robert Hariri’s squad.
→ Following the addition of CMO Nushmia Khokhar last month, Seattle-based Umoja Biopharma has welcomed Irena Melnikova as CFO. Melnikova, the ex-director of strategy and external innovation at Sanofi, was a managing director in investment banking at SVB Leerink and just spent seven years there overall before moving on to Umoja, a gene therapy biotech using its $53 million Series A to develop its pipeline of in vivo CAR-T therapies.
→ German rare disease biotech Centogene has pegged Michael Motz as chief commercial officer, pharmaceuticals after replacing CEO Arndt Rolfs with Andrin Oswald in October. With artificial intelligence a focal point in Centogene’s drug discovery efforts, Motz — a former director of business development at Roche — has been head of business development AI at MAB Discovery and Zealand Pharma.
→ Sandra Rojas-Caro will be CMO of Pittsburgh’s NeuBase Therapeutics starting Monday, the latest C-suite hire at the gene silencing biotech after COO William Mann and CSO Curt Bradshaw jumped aboard in the last nine months. Rojas-Caro has formerly been CMO at Gemini Therapeutics and Aeglea BioTherapeutics, both of which came after her time in R&D at Synageva and Alexion.
→ Tariq Arshad is taking on the role of CMO at Carlsbad, CA-based cancer and infectious disease biotech Qualigen Therapeutics. Arshad has spent the last two years as global head of medical affairs and clinical research at Becton Dickinson, and prior to that he was Sanofi Genzyme’s head of medical affairs for the immunology franchise (Dupixent and Kevzara). Furthermore, he has held leadership positions at Pfizer, Merck and Genentech.
→ Just because the FTC put the kibosh on Illumina’s $1.2 buyout of Pacific Biosciences doesn’t mean PacBio can’t dip into Illumina’s talent pool. Kathy Lynch, PacBio’s new head of global government affairs and corporate communications, was Illumina’s VP of global government Affairs and public policy; new chief accounting officer Michele Farmer started at Illumina in 2009 and was the sequencing company’s senior director of accounting. Elsewhere, Catherine Ball has joined PacBio as SVP of research after nine years at AncestryDNA, five of them as CSO.
→ Alzheimer’s-focused Cognito Therapeutics has called upon Everest Crosland to be chief commercial officer after holding the same position at AppliedVR. Further back, Crosland was VP of market access & reimbursement for Pear Therapeutics and senior director, pricing and reimbursement strategy. Crosland’s appointment comes two weeks after Cognito brought on Jonathan Lieber as CFO.
→ Vijay Karwal has gotten the nod to be CFO of Shanghai-based AffaMed Therapeutics, zooming in on ophthalmic, neurological and psychological disorders and compiling $170 million in a Series B round. Karwal was previously Nomura International’s managing director and head of healthcare investment banking for the Asia (ex-Japan) region, and he’s also been a managing director for CIMB and Royal Bank of Scotland.
→ Cancer-focused Oncternal Therapeutics out of San Diego has made Novartis and J&J vet Salim Yazji CMO. Yazji, who was VP & global head of oncology at Baxter for two years, co-founded and helmed immuno-oncology outfit Ajuta Therapeutics before making the jump to Oncternal. He’s also the ex-CMO of PMV Pharma.
→ Tevard Biosciences is adding a new face to its leadership team with the appointment of Gopi Shanker as CSO. Shanker hops aboard from the NIBR, where he most recently served as head of neuroscience. Prior to that, worked on advancing drugs like Aimovig to approval at Novartis and had stints at Amgen and Regeneron.
→ Aulos Bioscience has brought on Leo Redmond as CFO. Redmond recently served as CFO of Allakos and previously served at Presidio Pharmaceuticals and Genentech.
→ Los Angeles-based Appia Bio — focused on developing engineered allogeneic cell therapies from hematopoietic stem cells for cancer patients — has reeled in Qi Wei as SVP and head of technical operations. Wei makes the leap from Geneception Therapeutics, which he co-founded as an executive-in-residence at F-Prime Capital. In addition to that, Wei brings in a wealth of experience from his times at Novartis, Kite, Eli Lilly and TCR2 Therapeutics.
→ Life sciences VC Forbion has named Jasper Bos as general partner. Bos was formerly SVP and managing director at M Ventures, the venture arm of Merck.
→ Princeton, NJ-based biosimulation software company Certara, a late entry in the Great IPO Gold Rush of 2020, has put together a quartet of moves and welcomed the following: Matt Zierhut (VP, model-based meta-analysis); James Dunyak (senior director, biostatistics and data programming); Susan Potts (senior director, biostatistics and data programming); and Josh Xie (director, clinical pharmacology and translational medicine).
Zierhut spent his last five years with Janssen as director of quantitative sciences, while Dunyak is a Novartis vet who was previously AstraZeneca’s senior director of clinical pharmacometrics. Potts has worked in biostatistics at Reata, Endo Pharmaceuticals and most recently, Aeglea BioTherapeutics. Finally, Xie — whose work will be centered around partnerships with companies in China and other multinationals — has held posts at Pfizer and the FDA.
→ OncoSec has recruited Robert Schinagl as VP of program and alliance management. Schinagl joins the company from Prothex Pharma, where he was COO. Prior to Prothex, Schinagl served at Drais Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly, ImClone Systems and Osiris Therapeutics, among others.
→ Bristol Myers has made room for Manuel Hidalgo Medina on its board of directors, effective June 1. Medina, chief of hematology and medical oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, will be the 11th member of a board chaired by CEO Giovanni Caforio.
→ Notching an upsized IPO in March, IBD-focused Prometheus Biosciences has made Fred Hassan a part of its board of directors. Hassan, the ex-chairman and CEO of Schering-Plough and a board member at Amgen since 2015, is director at Warburg Pincus.
→ Relay Therapeutics president and CEO Sanjiv Patel is making the leap onto the board of directors of Prothena. Prior to his gig at Relay, Patel served in a variety of roles at Allergan such as EVP, chief strategy officer and corporate vice president, global strategic marketing and global health outcomes.
→ Seagen CMO Roger Dansey has been elected to Inovio’s board of directors a month after the Department of Defense put a lid on funding the Phase III trial of the biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine. Dansey has been an oncology exec at Merck, Gilead and Amgen.
→ Jean-Pierre Sommadossi has brought on Jerome Adams to be part of Atea Pharmaceuticals’ board of directors. Adams was Surgeon General during President Trump’s administration and a member of the Covid-19 Task Force.
→ Critical Path Institute has appointed Robert Califf to its board of directors. Califf is the head of clinical policy and strategy for Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences and Google Health divisions. Califf formerly serves as FDA commissioner under President Obama’s administration from 2016-2017.
→ Alkermes has a new board member in Emily Peterson Alva, gaining Elliott Advisors’ seal of approval after CEO Richard Pops unveiled a value enhancement plan to rejuvenate the company. Alva devoted more than 15 years to Lazard as an investment banker, is on the board at Amneal Pharmaceuticals, and is a founding member/corporate board partner with the Nasdaq Center for Board Excellence.
→ Three’s a crowd as Aravive makes a trio of appointments to its board of directors. John Hohneker, Sigurd Kirk and Peter Ho are the newly-minted members of the team. Hohneker, the ex-CEO of Anokion (now led by Deborah Geraghty), currently serves on the boards of Evelo Biosciences and Trishula Therapeutics. Kirk comes from Allergan, where he served as EVP, corporate business development. Meanwhile, Ho has served in roles at GSK, Epizyme, BeiGene and Boston Pharmaceuticals.
→ Flagship epigenetic programming startup Omega Therapeutics has waved in Elliott Levy as a member of the board of directors. Levy, who just departed Amgen and was SVP of global development, is the one-time VP and head of specialty development for Bristol Myers.
→ Shoreline Biosciences has welcomed Kimberly Manhard to its board of directors. Manhard currently serves as EVP, drug development and director of Heron Therapeutics. Prior to that, Manhard had stints at Ardea Biosciences, Exelixis, Agouron Pharmaceuticals, BMS and Eli Lilly.
→ New York-based Elevation Oncology has given a seat to longtime Array BioPharma CFO Michael Carruthers on the board of directors. Carruthers became a CFO again at Edgewise Therapeutics back in October.
→ CRISPR genome editing player Caribou Biosciences has pulled in Katy Rezvani and Christopher Sturgeon to its scientific advisory board. Rezvani is a professor of stem cell transplantation and cell therapy at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center while Sturgeon is an associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
→ Shuttle Pharmaceuticals has added Chris Senanayake to its board of directors. Senanayake brings with him his experience from TCG Lifesciences, Merck, Boehringer Ingelheim and Asta GreenChem, among others.
→ A charitable organization that looks to provide lifetime supplies of antisense oligonucleotide therapies to patients for free, n-Lorem Foundation has enlisted Frank Sasinowski to its board of directors. Sasinowski comes aboard with experience from his stint as a regulatory counsel for the FDA. Sasinowski is currently a director of Hyman, Phelps & McNamara and an adjunct professor of neurology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine.