Chris Roberts jumps back into biotech with CSO gig at Black Diamond; Troubled Five Prime appoints interim CEO
→ After spending two years as entrepreneur-in-residence at SR One — the venture arm of his former employer, GlaxoSmithKline — Chris Roberts is back at the frontlines of biotech.
As CSO of Black Diamond Therapeutics, Roberts joins CEO David Epstein in driving their targeted kinase inhibitors toward the clinic. He will lead research and early development on the biotech’s MAP platform, which zeroes in on allosteric mutations of oncogenes. Its lead candidate, BDTX-189, targets EGFR and HER2 regardless of tumor type.
Cancer, and particularly genetic drivers of the disease, was something Roberts had some experience with as VP of chemistry and early development at Syros, where he focused on drugging transcription and was credited for guiding two assets into clinical development. Before that, he had spearheaded infectious disease projects at GSK and Genelabs.
Cambridge, MA-based Black Diamond has also recruited Matt Lucas from Yumanity Therapeutics to lead chemistry and Tai-An Lin from Merck KGaA to lead biology. Its first Phase I/II trial is slated for the first half of next year.
→ Things haven’t been the same for cancer-focused Five Prime Therapeutics, ever since their partnered drug cabiralizumab in combination with Opdivo showed signs of weak efficacy and a troubling safety profile in an early-stage pancreatic cancer study in late 2017. As a result of that failure, the company axed 41 jobs in January — roughly 20% of the company’s workforce — to focus on late-stage pipelines. The South San Francisco-based company has tapped William “Bill” Ringo as acting interim CEO, succeeding Aron Knickerbocker “who has resigned from the company to pursue new challenges and opportunities.” Currently, Ringo is the chairman of company’s board of directors — and despite his temporary new role, will remain in that position. Ringo’s past experience includes president and CEO of Abgenix and gigs at Pfizer and Eli Lilly.
→ After NASH contender CymaBay Therapeutics released negative data back in June showing that its lead drug seladelpar performed worse than a placebo at a three-month readout from its ongoing 52-week mid-stage study, the company’s stock plummeted about 44.5%. Now, its CMO Pol Boudes is hitting the exit “to explore other opportunities.” Before joining CymaBay, Boudes served in the same position at Amicus Therapeutics and held other stints at Berlex Laboratories (later merged with Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals), Wyeth-Ayerst Research, Hoffmann-La Roche and Pasteur-Merieux Serums & Vaccines. The company has initiated a search for a successor.
→ Following plans to map out clinical manufacturing of CAR-NK after a $114 million Series B round led by Samsara earlier this month, Nkarta Therapeutics has promoted Nadir Mahmood from SVP, corporate development to the newly-created position of CBO. Mahmood previously headed corporate development at Second Genome and brings experience from roles at Kythera Biopharmaceuticals (acquired by Allergan) — where he oversaw the preclinical research for their lead molecule, Kybella — and Goldman Sachs.
→ Back in June, Orchard Therapeutics announced the pricing of its IPO — 9 million American depositary shares (ADSs) for total gross proceeds of about $128 million. Now, the UK gene therapy developer has announced that its CCO, Jason Meyenburg is leaving the company “to take on a chief executive role in the industry.” Until the company can find a permanent replacement, Mark Rothera, the company’s president and CEO, will assume global commercial leadership responsibilities.
→ Gene therapy-focused Encoded Therapeutics has expanded its leadership team with the appointments of Andrew Stober as chief manufacturing officer and David McNinch as CBO. Stober joins the company after leading gene therapy manufacturing at Novartis and after roles at AveXis, Biogen, Merck and Amgen. Previously, McNinch served as chief commercial officer at Prothena and during his stint at InterMune he helped organize the launch of the first treatment for IPF and the company’s later acquisition by Roche. McNinch also spent time at Ipsen, Genentech, Novartis and AstraZeneca prior to his new gig.
→ In April, Everest Medicines inked a deal with Immunomedics — making it one of the top 5 in-licensing companies in China in the past 11 years. Everest is now bolstering its team with several new appointments. Jason Brown, who has been serving as the company’s SVP of business development, has been appointed to the position of CBO. In addition to his appointment, Everest has named previous Sanofi exec, Frank Grams, as SVP of alliance management; former Sanofi China head, Sophia Zhu, as SVP of portfolio development and strategic planning; Ex-Abbott general manager, Alex Wang, as head of international business and former head of finance of Amgen China, Daniel Weng, as vice president of finance.
→ Flagship-backed Foghorn Therapeutics has expanded its leadership with the appointments of Samuel Agresta as CMO and Allan Reine as CFO. Agresta formerly served in the same position at Infinity Pharmaceuticals — and has worked as vice president and head of clinical development at Agios Pharmaceuticals, where he oversaw the development and registration of ivosidenib (Tibsovo) and enasidenib (Idhifa). Reine hops on board after serving in the same position at Pieris Pharmaceuticals. Stints at Lombard Odier Asset Management, SAC Capital Advisors and Alexandra Investment Management dot Reine’s resume.
→ Salarius Pharmaceuticals has appointed Scott Jordan on board as CBO and Mark Rosenblum as executive vice president finance and interim CFO. With these new additions, the company can further operations in its lead clinical programs in Ewing sarcoma and advanced solid tumors to aim at producing potential data in 2020. Jordan transitioned to the role after serving as Salarius’ CFO. Previously, he served as CFO at Beta Cat Pharmaceuticals and chief investment officer at Stingray Therapeutics. He’s also the co-founder and advisor at Healthios Xchange. Rosenblum was previously brought on to the company as a financial consultant to assist with the merge with Flex Pharma. Prior to that role, Rosenblum served as chairman and CEO at ActiveCare.
→ Princeton, New Jersey-based Oyster Point Pharma has welcomed Dan Lochner as CFO and John Snisarenko as CCO. Lochner joins after a gig as managing director at Goldman Sachs. Snisarenko hops over to the company following time as group vice president and head of Shire’s (now Takeda) ophthalmic business, leading sales for Xiidra, Lucentis, Rituxan and Actemra.
→ insitro — led by AI star Daphne Koller — has added Matthew Rasmussen as vice president of data engineering and Duane Valz as general counsel. Rasmussen joins the company from Myriad Genetics as vice president of software engineering and a previous stint at Counsyl. Valz joins from Zymergen — where he served as the company’s first in-house lawyer and general counsel, helping to structure their Series B and C financings. Valz held previous positions at Google, Yahoo! and Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin (now combined with Arnold & Porter).
→ Back in July, Celgene collaborated with Nimbus Therapeutics to bag an option for their ‘highly prized’ I/O target, an HPK1 inhibitor program. Now, Christine Loh has joined Nimbus as their SVP, head of biology after spending time as the vice president of translational medicine at Kymera Therapeutics. Previously, she served as the executive director of research — focusing on hemophilia and sickle cell disease — at Biogen spinout Bioverativ. She has held positions at Sirtris, Pfizer and ICOS Corporation.
→ X4 Pharmaceuticals — which collaborated with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in May to accelerate the development of their lead product candidate mavorixafor for the treatment of Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia — has named one of its original founders, Renato Skerlj, as SVP, research and development. He draws from his experience as the inventor of both plerixafor, a stem cell mobilizer approved by the FDA in 2008, and ertapenem, an anti-bacterial approved by the FDA in 2001. Skerlj’s resume includes gigs at Lysosomal Therapeutics, Genzyme and AnorMED.
→ Two years after Zosano Pharma reported positive Phase III data for its microneedle patch system for delivering an old migraine drug — setting up a campaign to file an NDA — the company has brought on Dushyant Pathak as SVP of business development. Most recently, Pathak served as the associate vice chancellor of research, innovation and technology commercialization, as well as the executive director of Venture Catalyst at University of California Davis. Pathak brings experience from his times at iPierian, as CEO and president of Cellexicon, founder of VentureEdge and roles at Axys Pharmaceuticals and Chiron.
→ While their lead drug candidate LYR-210 is in Phase II for the treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis, ear, nose and throat diseases, Lyra Therapeutics has added Vineeta Belanger as the company’s SVP of clinical affairs. Belanger most recently served as vice president of clinical affairs at Avedro and has held positions at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, NeuroVision and Alcon.
→ Peter Catalino has assumed a new gig at Vertex as SVP, head global marketing. He transitions to the company after time as global business franchise head cardio-metabolic medicines at Novartis. While at Novartis he worked under Paul Hudson — cranking out blockbuster heart drug Entresto and contributing to the Akcea-Ionis license deal. Previously, Catalino was an associate principal at McKinsey & Company.
→ Last week, Soligenix brought Jonathan Guarino on board as their SVP and CFO, succeeding Karen Krumeich who hit the exit to pursue new opportunities. This week the company made the addition of Merck vet Daniel Ring as vice president of business development and strategic planning. Ring brings experience from his time as vice president of business development at Exela Pharma Sciences and as executive director of corporate licensing at Merck.
→ Allen Poirson has hopped to twoXAR as the company’s SVP of biopharmaceutical business development. Before joining the AI-driven company, Poirson served as a partner at Silicon Valley-based VC firm Mighty Capital. He formerly served as the CEO of Sony subsidiary Sony Biotechnology and held positions at NASA and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
→ Medical device company, BioVentrix, has tapped Pedro Marques as vice president of sales for the European market. Marques previous stints include roles as vice president of global access and clinical development at Medtronic and as VP of international sales for HeartWare.
→ BioTheryX — focused on multi-kinase inhibition and targeted protein degradation — has welcomed Allergan vet Jeffrey Edwards to its board of directors. Edwards spent 22 years at Allergan — holding several roles including EVP, finance and business development and CFO.
→ Ted Love, current president and CEO of Global Blood Therapeutics — which recently receiving priority review from the FDA for its sickle cell disease drug — has joined the board of directors at Portola Pharmaceuticals. Love previously worked at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Nuvelo, Theravance and Genentech.
→ Cambridge-based Verve Therapeutics — who is pursing a gene-editing approach to coronary artery disease — can now count Andrew Geall, as a member of the company’s scientific advisory board. Geall is the vice president of formulations, analytics and chemistry at Avidity Biosciences.
→ Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit. And Alexion’s unexpected announcement after the market close on Tuesday that Paul Clancy is on his way out — to be replaced by a strategy and business chief they know virtually nothing about — qualified as a nasty shock for some high-profile company observers.
The Q3 report will be a joint effort of Clancy and his replacement, Aradhana Sarin, who will then pick up the CFO job as Clancy continues to advise the company into the middle of next year. So what’s up with that? Clancy only arrived 2 years ago, stepping in from Biogen, where he also commanded lots of respect in a spotlight position.
His hiring was seen as a coup for Alexion watchers, as CEO Ludwig Hantson put together his new team, reorganized the company after a bruising investigation over ethics violations, moved to Boston and laid out his basic strategy on protecting the big Soliris franchise. Sarin will take over with a lot to prove. And some analysts are setting the bar high.