Cutting loose from Merck, Mike Nally is 'running toward a great opportunity'; Novartis partnership in hand, BeiGene promotes Julia Wang to CFO
When Mike Nally was an undergrad at Middlebury College in Vermont, he thought investment banking and finance was his “path to salvation.”
He graduated in 1998 with his bachelor’s in economics, then took a job at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, an investment bank later bought by Credit Suisse. He was tasked with doing research and analysis in the life sciences industry, but what he found surprised him.
“That really fueled a passion for the science, a passion for the ability to positively impact humanity, but also this orientation toward a sense of purpose within my work,” Nally said.
He went on to Harvard University for his MBA, then spent 18 years in the ranks at Merck, ending up as chief marketing officer of the pharma’s Human Health unit. And now, amid a C-suite shakeup, Nally is once again packing his bags for Cambridge, MA, where he’ll become Flagship Pioneering’s latest CEO-partner just miles from his alma mater.
“We’re excited to come back after 18 years around the world,” he said. “It’s a place that’s near and dear to our hearts.”
Nally is taking the helm at Generate Biomedicines, an upstart leveraging machine learning and computational power to learn the rules by which amino acid sequences encode for protein structure and function. By doing so, Nally believes the 50-person team can generate proteins that have “never been seen on the planet before.”
“We think the approach has applicability across a range of modalities, whether that be antibodies, peptides, cytokines, and then more far-out places like mirror protein cell and gene therapy,” Nally said. “There’s a wide range of applicability, and given the in silico nature of discovery, it allows you to discover these proteins at a pace which is unprecedented relative to anything I’ve seen within industry.”
Nally’s big move comes as Merck’s chief executive Ken Frazier prepares to step down, and R&D MVP Roger Perlmutter has handed the reins over to Dean Li. Nally, former head of Merck’s vaccines business, was reportedly in the running to replace Frazier, but the company instead went with CFO Robert Davis, a four-year Merck veteran.
While Nally wouldn’t confirm whether he was in consideration for the top spot, he says Davis’ appointment had nothing to do with his decision to leave Merck.
“I’m tremendously excited about the opportunity at Flagship and with Generate,” he said. “My move was not in response to anything other than, you know, running toward a great opportunity.” — Nicole DeFeudis
→ Already partnering with Novartis on tislelizumab, BeiGene had its eye on Boston Immune Technologies and Therapeutics’ TNFR2 antagonist antibodies, with the two parties arranging a development deal in February. With these collaborations in place, BeiGene has promoted Julia Wang to CFO, succeeding the retiring Howard Liang, effective June 30. Wang came on board last year as SVP, enterprise optimization and deputy CFO for John Oyler’s folks. In her last stop at Alexion, she was SVP, global business finance and corporate planning, and she also brings financial experience from J&J and PepsiCo.
→ German CDMO Rentschler Biopharma SE has plucked up Martin Kessler as CEO of its US subsidiary Rentschler Biopharma Inc. Kessler comes from McKinsey & Company, where he completed a 7-year stint as associate partner. In addition to the title of CEO, Kessler has been named SVP transformation of Rentschler Biopharma SE.
→ It only took three years for Brian Alexander to rise to the top of Roche subsidiary Foundation Medicine, succeeding Cindy Perettie as CEO of the genomic profiling company this coming Tuesday. Perettie, who became CEO in early 2019, announced in January that she would pivot to Roche Diagnostics and take command of the molecular lab solutions business. A radiation oncologist at Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Alexander first arrived on the scene at Foundation Medicine as SVP of clinical development in 2018 and was promoted to CMO less than a year later.
→ In another Roche connection, Flatiron Health — which is an independent affiliate of the Roche Group — will be changing CEOs, with Carolyn Starrett taking over for co-founder Nat Turner starting April 16. On the same date, Flatiron’s other co-founder Zach Weinberg, who was a Google staffer along with Turner, will also move on. Starrett has led the community oncology business and got her start at Flatiron in 2016 as VP, customer experience and operations. Flatiron was sold to Roche for $1.9 billion back in February 2018.
→ Making its second substantial hire involving an AbbVie vet in as many weeks, Novartis has wooed Javier Boix from Rick Gonzalez’s crew to become global head of communications. Boix started out at AbbVie before the Abbott split in 2009 as a corporate and internal communications manager, working his way up the ladder to eventually lead the pharma giant’s US communications. Last week, Novartis appointed ex-AbbVie deputy general counsel Karen Hale as chief legal officer.
→ Vividion now has Jeff Hatfield at the controls and $135 million to work with from a Series C that included backing from an All-Star team of investors. The next step this week is making Patty Allen the permanent CFO after two months with the interim tag. Allen’s most recent CFO gig was with Zafgen, and she’s been VP of finance at Alnylam as well as director of finance at Alkermes. In other Vividion news, Brian Koh has been given the nod to lead translational sciences and clinical development. Koh brings experience from Gilead and Kite in clinical R&D in hematology and oncology.
→ The Celgene connections at Antengene have been further reinforced by recruiting Kevin Lynch as CMO. Lynch was VP and head of clinical development and medical affairs in the Asia-Pacific territory for the latter part of his tenure at Celgene, which struck a licensing deal in 2017 and helped contribute to the Chinese cancer biotech’s financing before Bristol Myers Squibb bought out the company. Elsewhere at Antengene, Bo Shan has been promoted to CSO after his turn as a corporate VP with discovery, early development, and CMC. Prior to his arrival at Antengene in 2018, Shan was VP in charge of CMC at Ascletis.
→ Rene Russo-helmed Xilio, which lined up a $95 Series C in February for its anti-CTLA-4 antibody and IL-2 agonist, has handed CFO duties to Salvatore Giovine and made Chris Frankenfield general counsel. Giovine wraps up a 15-year run at J&J, with the last three as Janssen’s finance director in US oncology in charge of such drugs as Darzalex and Imbruvica. Frankenfield comes to Xilio after nearly six years at Blueprint Medicines which saw him move up to VP, corporate legal affairs.
→ AavantiBio CEO Bo Cumbo has been gradually assembling his team with Douglas Swirsky and Ty Howton hitting the scene as CFO and COO, respectively, in the last month. CMO and Vertex vet Christopher Wright is the latest piece in the leadership puzzle at AavantiBio. Wright was previously a CMO with Ironwood spinout Cyclerion and the chief development officer at Ironwood, both of which have fallen on hard times. At the tail end of his seven-year run with Vertex, he served as SVP, global medicines development and affairs.
→ Not long after getting the FDA’s seal of approval for Kimyrsa in acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections (ABSSSI), Melinta Therapeutics has tapped John Harlow as chief commercial officer. Harlow has been around the block in the 20 years leading up to the Melinta nod; he’s jumped around to biotechs like Novartis, Shionogi and Endo Pharmaceuticals in various sales and marketing positions before finally getting his first C-suite break in 2019 as CCO of Baudax Bio.
→ San Francisco-based Excision BioTherapeutics, which launched in February with $60 million in total funding — our Jason Mast profiled the CRISPR work of co-founder and chief scientific consultant Kamel Khalili at the time — is bringing William Kennedy into the fold as SVP of clinical development, starting today. Kennedy, a Big Pharma vet whose credits include Janssen, Genentech and Merck, comes to Excision from Calcilytix, where he was VP, development. Elsewhere, he was VP of clinical development at Audentes.
→ Gregory Chow is taking on another CFO challenge by heading to chemoproteomics biotech Frontier Medicines, which signed a protein degradation deal with AbbVie for $55 million upfront in early December. Before getting the call to join Chris Varma’s squad, Chow was EVP and CFO at Aptose Biosciences and also spent time at Wedbush as managing director and director of private placements.
→ Emboldened by positive data from two Phase III trials of roflumilast cream that would make an NDA a possibility later this year, Arcutis has filled three positions with Scott Burrows (CFO), Corey Padovano (VP of sales) and Sean Brugger (executive director of field medical affairs). Taking over as CFO from John Smither, whose retirement is effective today, Burrows has been Arcutis’ VP of finance since 2019 and held numerous financial posts at Amgen for 15 years before a year with Shire leading international investor relations. Padovano had served at Gilead since 2013 and was the remdesivir maker’s executive director, marketing operations before his new Arcutis gig. Brugger, an Amgen vet in his own right, comes off almost five years at Alexion and was recently regional director of the metabolic disorders portfolio.
→ Trying to put a lid on daily pills, Watertown, MA-based Lyndra Therapeutics has named Abigail Jenkins chief commercial and business officer and Jacqueline Fernandes VP of data compliance and information technology. Jenkins began her career at Pfizer in sales and marketing, and her most recent post was with Emergent BioSolutions as SVP and business unit head of vaccines. A 13-year Sunovion vet, Fernandes is the latest to jump ship from Sarepta, where she served as senior director of data compliance and chief privacy officer.
→ London eye disease biotech OKYO Pharma has called upon Rajkumar Patil to be CSO. For the last year, Patil had been VP of R&D with Ora (Ophthalmic Research Associates). While he was with Alcon and later the Novartis Institute of Biomedical Research, Patil took on such roles as associate director of research and head of molecular pharmacology glaucoma and retina research.
→ Pennsylvania biotech Immunome, which scored a Department of Defense contract to develop biosynthetic convalescent plasma, has enlisted Dennis Giesing as chief development officer. Prior to Immunome, Giesing was the longtime CSO at Taris Biomedical until J&J bought the company in late 2019, at which point he transitioned to J&J’s oncology team.
→ Montis Biosciences has recruited René Hoet as CSO. Hoet most recently served as CSO at Imcheck Therapeutics and was previously VP biologics research at Bayer for 8 years. Prior to that, he was at Genmab.
→ Digital health company Genome Medical has brought on Marco Barcella as chief product officer and Brandon Poe as CFO. Barcella most recently served at Tiatros and IBM Watson Health. Meanwhile, Poe comes from Illumina, where he served as VP of finance.
→ Enthera Pharmaceuticals has appointed Claudia Nardini as VP of research and development. Nardini had been head of global purification & virus clearance product management at Sartorius Stedim Biotech GmbH, and before that she served at Bayer and Kedrion Biopharma.
→ Janux Therapeutics, the small biotech that Merck inked a $1 billion deal with — has named Charles Winter as SVP of chemistry, manufacturing, and controls. Winter brings to the table a wealth of experience from companies like Gilead, Denali, AnaptysBio and Synthorx (now a Sanofi company). Winter launched his career at Genentech, where he spent 17 years.
→ Evonetix has appointed Michael Daniels as head of product management. Daniels brings experience from his times at Arcis Biotechnology, Cancer Research UK, Thermo Fisher and GE Healthcare Life Sciences.
→ Mace Rothenberg’s post-Pfizer plans continue to evolve by taking on another board appointment, this time with Aulos Bioscience, a biotech concentrating on (IL-2)-binding monoclonal antibodies that Michael Ehlers co-founded. Just a week ago, the ex-Pfizer CMO joined the board of directors at Tango Therapeutics.
→ Michael Varney has now made his way to the advisory board of Phoenix Molecular Designs, which focuses on RSK kinase inhibitors to fight triple negative breast cancer. Life after retirement at Genentech has been kind to Varney, who is currently chairman of R&D at Erasca and is also a senior advisor at Frazier Healthcare Partners.
→ Ex-Bristol Myers Squibb and Five Prime exec Julie Hambleton has secured a spot on the board of directors at Jonathan Lim-led cancer biotech Erasca, along with Bihua Chen. Hambleton, who was also in clinical development at Genentech, is Arch Oncology’s interim president and CEO. Chen, who co-founded Cormorant Asset Management, followed the SPAC herd last October with Helix Acquisition.
→ With the FDA signing off last month on Kronos Bio’s Phase III trial of entospletinib — one of the drugs Norbert Bischofberger plucked from Gilead — the biotech has made Taiyin Yang a member of the board of directors. Yang is a 28-year Gilead vet who is currently EVP of pharmaceutical development and manufacturing for Dan O’Day’s crew.
→ Debuting in December with a $25 million round based on work from Harvard’s David Liu and Alan Saghatelian, Exo Therapeutics has elected Nagesh Mahanthappa to the board of directors. Mahanthappa, who founded and helmed Scholar Rock, is also a board member at Casma Therapeutics. Exo has also named Charles Roberts from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to the scientific advisory board.
→ PYC Therapeutics has selected Jason Haddock to be a part of its board of directors. This isn’t Haddock’s first board appointment, as he also currently sits on the board of Codiak Biosciences. Previously, Haddock served as CFO of Array Biopharma, and prior to that, he was at Bristol Myers Squibb and ArcherDX.
→ Tel Aviv, Israel-based Chemomab Therapeutics has expanded its board of directors with four new appointments. The new hires are Alan Moses, Claude Nicaise, Joel Maryles and Neil Cohen.
Moses comes with a 14-year stint at Novo Nordisk under his belt, where he served as SVP and global chief medical officer. Meanwhile, Nicaise was SVP of strategic development and global regulatory affairs at Alexion after a 21 year gig at Bristol Myers Squibb.
Maryles hops aboard after careers at OurCrowd and Citigroup Investment Banking. On the other hand, Cohen — formerly the interim CEO of Anchiano Therapeutics — comes along after stints at Castel Partners and Israel Seed Partners.
→ COMPASS Pathways has welcomed Wayne Riley to its board of directors. Riley is president of the State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University, Brooklyn and was previously a director at Vertex.
→ The non-profit Termeer Foundation has brought on Catharine Smith as the organization’s executive director. Smith hails from the Clinton Foundation, where she serves as CEO, Clinton Health Matters Initiative. Prior to that, she held various leadership roles at Harvard Medical School.
→ San Francisco-based Better Therapeutics has signed on Andrew Armanino and Geoffrey Parker to its board of directors. Armanino recently retired as managing partner and CEO at CPA firm Armanino. Meanwhile, Parker currently serves as COO, CFO and EVP of Tricida. Previously, Parker was CFO of Anacor Pharmaceuticals and a managing director at Goldman Sachs.
→ Marina Bozilenko has joined AcelRx’s board of directors. Bozilenko, a Bear Stearns alum, is presently a strategic advisor for William Blair after 11 years as the investment firm’s head of biotech & pharma and managing director.