Peer Review

Colin Freund takes new CEO job at Modra Pharma; Compass recruits Pfizer, Biogen vets to C-suite

Colin Freund

→ Amsterdam-based Modra Pharmaceuticals has tapped a permanent CEO to guide its pipeline of oral chemotherapies as it wraps up a Phase Ib/IIa study for the lead program — a tablet formulation of docetaxel. Colin Freund comes with fresh CEO experience at Que Oncology as well as a previous stints at Trangene and GPC Biotech. Eric van der Putten, the Aglaia Biomedical Ventures partner who was filling the role ad interim, will recede to a board director role. Meanwhile Edwin De Wit has also joined the company as head of oncology development.

Novartis’ insistence on centralizing top execs in its Swiss headquarters has cost the pharma giant a key leader: Liz Barrett has put in her notice just 10 months after taking on the oncology chief role.

“After much personal reflection, it became clear that my family would be unable to relocate to Basel where the oncology headquarters is based,” Barrett said in a statement.

Susanne Schaffert, president of Novartis subsidiary Advanced Accelerator Applications, is replacing Barrett as CEO of the oncology business unit. Barrett is moving to the helm of a US-based biotech, though she told Endpoints she can’t say which just yet.

OrbiMed– and Thiel-backed Compass Therapeutics has scooped Pfizer’s head of early clinical development, Yu Liu, to oversee the slate of programs generated from its antibody discovery platform. The new CMO will have a chance to work on targets in cancer, inflammation and autoimmune disease. leveraging a diverse range of experience accrued over the years at Biogen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Essentialis Therapeutics and Amgen. Fellow Biogen vet Lynne Sullivan — who also handled taxes for Merck KGaA is coming on board as CFO.

Novartis may still have big plans for CAR-T, but the pharma giant continues to bleed top talent from the group expected to carry out the work. Cambridge, MA-based Semma Therapeutics — which is developing a hoped-for stem cell cure for Type 1 diabetes — said that they have recruited Novartis CAR-T chief David Lebwohl as their new chief medical officer. Semma has also recruited David DiGiusto as chief technology officer and Ann Darda as head of human resources. Last fall investors put up $114 million to fund a pioneering human study that will put a new delivery tech to the test in diabetes.

Daphne Quimi just got a promotion at Amicus Therapeutics $FOLD, where she will become CFO in the beginning of next year as Chip Baird leaves for a new job. The handoff caps the first year Amicus became a commercial company with a controversial OK for its Fabry disease drug Galafold. Several other execs are getting new roles: Alibaba alumnus David Clark has been appointed chief people officer; Ellen Rosenberg has been promoted to chief legal officer; Andrew Mulberg is now SVP, global regulatory affairs; and Anthony Sileno will be SVP, clinical operations and translational sciences.

Sonoma Pharmaceuticals, a specialty pharma now focused on dermatology, has hired Frederick (Bubba) Sandford to execute the company’s turnaround plan. He will take the roles of both CEO Jim Schutz and CFO Bob Miller, who resigned from the company $SNOA.

→ As Johns Hopkins spinout WindMIL Therapeutics opens a new office to consolidate its cell therapy work and attract talent in Philadelphia, two execs are joining the outpost. Monil Shah, chief development officer, comes with a string of roles at Brooklyn ImmunoTherapeutics, Ventrus Biosciences, Celgene, FibroGen, Amgen and others on his resume. New VP of operations Patrick Dougherty was the chief of staff to the SVP of R&D at GlaxoSmithKline. WindMIL closed a $32.5 million round earlier this year for its work on memory T cells residing in the bone marrow and a “significant expansion” of its team.

→ The first snapshot of efficacy for Avrobio’s lead gene therapy to treat Fabry disease might have spooked investors, but the Cambridge, MA-based biotech $AVRO is keen to regain their confidence with four new hires. Birgitte Volck, a rare disease expert formerly of Sobi and GSK, has been tapped as president of R&D; Erik Ostrowski joins as CFO from the same role at Summit Therapeutics; former FDA staffer Josie Yang is the new head of regulatory affairs; while Biogen vet Steven Avruch becomes general counsel.

→ Parisian biotech Biophytis has promoted Jean-Christophe Montigny to COO, from his previous role of supervising all things financial and legal for the company. Meanwhile, Biophytis has also named Daniel Schneiderman as CFO. Schneiderman, who served most recently as VP of finance and controller at Boston-based precision medicine company MetaStat, will be based at the company’s Cambridge office in the United States as Biophytis expands its operations in the region. “We plan to continue building…infrastructure in Boston with additional key hires in 2018 and 2019, as we execute the clinical development of SARCONEOS through our…clinical phase 2b trial for the treatment of sarcopenia in both the United States and Europe, as well as progress SARCONEOS…in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and MACUNEOS…in dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), CEO Stanislas Veillet said. 

Ed Kaye has recruited two former Sarepta colleague to his team as he moves Stoke Therapeutics into a larger R&D space in Bedford, MA. Shamim Ruff, previously Sarepta’s chief regulatory affairs officer and SVP, head of quality, will have the title SVP of regulatory affairs and quality. Nancy Wyant comes on board as VP, head of clinical operations after consulting with Stoke for the past few months following stints at Idera and BeiGene.

→ Ahead of a Phase III readout of its NSCLC treatment, OSE Immunotherapeutics has appointed former Sanofi $SNY executive Julien Perrier as chief commercial officer. Perrier most recently served as the head of AbbVie’s $ABBV immunology division in France, where he was in charge of the commercial operations for Humira, as well as prepping the launch of two other immunology products. “Julien’s experience in immunology and biologics will also prove essential as we plan next steps for FR104, a Phase 2-ready, first-in-class CD28 antagonist with exciting potential to treat autoimmune disease,” OSE chief Alexis Peyroles said.

Boehringer Ingelheim’s Henning Gerschewski is heading over to another German firm where he will serve as as vice president of manufacturing, science and technology. The company, Rentschler Biopharma SE, focuses on contract development and manufacturing for biopharmaceutical companies.  


With contribution by Natalie Grover.


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