Peer Review

CSO Bill Lundberg transitions to advisor role at CRISPR Therapeutics; Prothena loses CMO Sarah Noonberg; Sanofi vet Mark Nuttall jumps to Kymera

Bill Lundberg

→ Wrapping a three-year run marked by the first clinical trial applications for CRISPR-based therapies, Bill Lundberg is stepping down as CSO of CRISPR Therapeutics $CRSP. He will stay with the company as the head of its scientific advisory board. This continues a period of transition after Sam Kulkarni took over from founding CEO Rodger Novak in October. Much of the scientific leadership now falls upon Tony Ho, head of R&D.

Sujay Kango, the guy who led the launch of Kyprolis while at Oynx Pharma, will help plan commercial operations for luspatercept as CCO at Acceleron Pharma $XLRN. Currently in PhIII development, luspatercept is a Celgene-partnered anemia therapy for diseases like myelodysplastic syndromes and beta-thalassemia. Kango, who’s amassed some experience at both AbbVie and Infinity, will be “instrumental” as Acceleron drives the drug to market.

Ablynx $ABLX is switching up its board of directors again. After a mere month in the chairman‘s seat — a month that saw the Belgian biotech get acquired by Sanofi no less — Bo Jesper Hansen has resigned from the board altogether for personal reasons. His successor is Russell Greig, a former GSK exec who’s kept himself busy with a number of board appointments.

Sarah Noonberg

→ After a brief stint at Prothena $PRTA, Medivation vet and CMO Sarah Noonberg has resigned from the protein immunotherapy biotech. Noonberg’s departure deals another blow to the rare disease player, which has already suffered a short attack from Kerrisdale Capital’s Sahm Adrangi as the PhIII data on its AL amyloidosis drug looms. The Dublin biotech, which has US offices in South San Francisco, will count on former CMO Martin Koller’s consultation while it searches for Noonberg’s replacement.

→ A top R&D exec on Genentech’s Tecentriq crew has jumped ship to join Houston-based Bellicum as its chief medical officer. William Grossman had led “the global clinical development of Tecentriq in gastrointestinal cancers and of cancer immunotherapy combinations across all solid tumor types.” He joins Bellicum on the heels of a clinical hold for the company’s leading cell therapy.

Selvita, a Polish drug discovery company looking to build a clinical portfolio, has recruited Merck KGaA vet Steffen Heeger to steward that effort. As CMO, Heeger will take charge of all clinical, medical and regulatory affairs, with a special eye on SEL24, a dual PIM/FLT3 kinase inhibitor currently in Phase I/II studies for acute myeloid leukemia. Selvita has been feeding drug candidates emerging from their discovery platforms into its pipeline, bringing in partners such as Italy’s Menarini Group and the US’ Leukemia and Lymphoma Society along the way. The hiring of Heeger, who spent the past four years heading clinical development at Morphosys, fits right into that development strategy.

Mark Nuttall

→ After two decades in Big Pharma, Mark Nuttall is switching gears to do business for a little biotech hunting for groundbreaking protein degradation drugs. Atlas-backed Kymera emerged from stealth mode just last October, and Nuttall — coming from the nearby office of Sanofi Genzyme — is one of a dozen new staff that CEO Laurent Audoly plans to hire this year. As chief business officer, Nuttall is tasked with exploring new partnerships and collaborations — something he’s had plenty of experience with while at Sanofi and J&J. In the spirit of welcoming, the Cambridge, MA-based company has also appointed Nimbus CEO Don Nicholson to its board of directors.

→ As Liquidia Technologies advances the first product candidate engineered from its own tech platform, it has tapped Kevin Gordon to lead finance operations and corporate development as president and CFO. Most recently the COO and EVP of contract research giant Quintiles, Gordon helped execute the Quintiles-IMS merger that gave life to IQVIA.

→ In another expression of its dogged faith in Afrezza, MannKind has enlisted diabetes expert David Kendall’s help in achieving the growth potential that they believe the inhaled insulin still has. Even though Sanofi pulled out of a marketing partnership after deciding the market isn’t there, Kendall — who joins from Eli Lilly — can still see the mealtime insulin becoming the standard of care for diabetics.

Marc Beer has resigned from the board chairman role at Minerva Neurosciences $NERV, triggering the elevation of CEO Rémy Luthringer to executive chairmanship. Joining him at the board will be William Doyle, executive chairman of Novocure, who’s been appointed as lead independent director. The changeup happens at a time the central nervous system specialist is look to pivot to commercial stage with its lead drug, MIN-101, currently in PhIII testing for schizophrenia.

Acer Therapeutics $ACER, the biotech looking to market a rare disease drug that some fear would be the next Emflaza, has announced four additions to the executive ranks. John Klopp is the VP of manufacturing; Terrie Kellmeyer, VP of clinical science; Jason Kneeland, VP of finance and controller; and Kim Tharaldsen, senior director of marketing. Klopp is the star hire here, having worked on orphan drug development at BioMarin and Ultragenyx for a decade. The expansion of the management team is part of a bigger drive to build a commercial operation in anticipation of the NDA filing for Edsivo (celiprolol), a drug for vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome bought cheaply outside the US.

Panna Sharma has stepped down as CEO and president of Cancer Genetics, the Rutherford, NJ-based outsourcing group that specializes in diagnostic and testing services for personalized oncology treatment. COO Jay Roberts will take the helm in the interim.

Poseida Therapeutics, an upstart looking to catch up in the CAR-T field with a suite of gene engineering technologies, has tapped Martin Giedlin to lead technical operations as a vice president. A Sangamo vet, Giedlin’s claim to fame is directing the manufacturing process in support of Kymriah while he’s at Novartis. Poseida’s most advanced cell therapy, for multiple myeloma, is still in Phase I, but the San Diego biotech is hoping Giedlin’s expertise in process development will give them an edge in assembling its wide-ranging pipeline.

→ With the resignation of CFO Robert Dickey IV, co-founder and longtime board member Jonathan Gold is stepping in as his temporary replacement at Motif Bio $MTFB. The UK antibiotic developer has garnered some attention with its plans to resubmit iclaprim, a drug that has been rejected by the FDA and changed hands a couple times since.

→ Having quietly resigned from Teva, Andrew Boyer is popping up on the other end at Amneal Pharma, another generic maker about to merge with Impax Laboratories. Boyer, who started a decades-long career in generics at Allergan, was the troubled Israeli giant’s president and CEO of North America. Now, he will lead commercial operations for the combined company as EVP.

→ Switzerland’s Addex Therapeutics is welcoming back Jean-Philippe Rocher to work on the company’s small molecule allosteric modulator platform — which he helped build with Robert Lütjens — as the co-head of discovery. “The team will initially focus on delivering on our funded research programs which are being conducted in collaboration with Indivior PLC and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research,” said Addex CEO Tim Dyer. The partnership with Indivior targets addiction treatments and carries up to $330 million in potential milestones. Rocher, who was most recently at Pierre Fabre, will also oversee the preclinical portfolio.

→ After a months-long hunt, Allergan $AGN has locked in Matthew Walsh as the successor of outgoing CFO Maria Teresa Hilado, who announced the desire to retire in September. Most recently CFO at outsourcing company Catalent, Walsh — also named EVP — is tasked with unlocking growth potential even as Allergan contends with the imminent generic competition facing its Restasis franchise. “Matt brings to Allergan a unique combination of skills, including a technical background, a deep understanding of the healthcare industry, a rich experience across financial disciplines, and the ability to lead complex health care organizations,” said CEO Brent Saunders in a statement. “I’m pleased to welcome Matt to our team and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to drive strong financial performance and deploy our capital to increase shareholder return over the short- and long-term.”

→ Now that Intellia Therapeutics $INTL is sailing steadily toward its first human studies with AbbVie vet John Leonard at the helm, Nessan Bermingham will officially re-join Atlas Venture as a venture partner. Bermingham had been CEO of the Atlas-backed CRISPR/Cas-9 upstart (which he co-founded) for four years, leading the company from seed investment through an IPO to clinical development. Back in his venture capitalist shoes, he will be scouting for new biotechs for the Atlas platform.

→ Preclinical service provider Sinclair Research has brought in Alex Wakefield, a dual Eli Lilly and Covance vet, as its first VP of research and operations.

Kaiji Hu is the latest research scientist to join cannabinoid-derived medication developer Medipure Pharmaceuticals, with a specific mandate to spearhead psoriasis and fatty liver disease/NASH project.


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