Peer Review

Cynthia Collins exits Human Longevity; Section 32 welcomes Michael Pellini; Silverback beefs up its C-suite

Michael Pellini

Michael Pellini has just jumped into a senior role at one of the most intriguing new venture funds in the biopharma/healthcare world. The former CEO — and current chairman — at Foundation Medicine {$FMI}, which just won approval for a new diagnostic tool for solid tumors, has joined Bill Maris as a managing partner at Section 32. In a message to Endpoints News, Pellini said he is “[r]eally excited to team up with Bill Maris and Jenn Kercher (ex-GV).” Maris himself played a prominent role at GV, the celebrated global venture which has asserted itself in the startup biotech world, but the addition of Pellini will likely bring the fund even closer to biopharmas. Here’s Pellini again: “Broad mandate but I’ll primarily be focused on opportunities at intersection of health care and technology which can have a significant impact on patient care and/or drug development.”

→ After less than a year in the role, Cynthia Collins is out at Human Longevity. J. Craig Venter’s high-flying anti-aging startup recruited the former GE executive last January, when founder Venter handed the CEO reins over for the first time. Venter only loosened his grip on the wheel, continuing leadership as executive chairman and staying on board in a daily role leading the company’s scientific strategy and direction. Collins was formerly CEO of GE Healthcare, and when she came to HLI she brought a slew of top executives with her. Now, Venter is taking back over as CEO. The company gave no reason for the abrupt leadership change. Last year, HLI also lost its chief data scientist Franz Och (the chief architect of Google Translate), who left the role to join Grail.

→ A stealthy Silverback Therapeutics has been building up its C-suite with top talent from a pair of high profile biotechs in the Seattle area. The latest recruit is Seattle Genetics {$SGEN} COO Eric Dobmeier, who will take the helm at Silverback. He will lead Mike Sun, also from Seattle Genetics, and Juno’s Sam Blackman, in working on the biotech’s mysterious pipeline — which will likely feature immunotherapy, given the leadership’s background. Dobmeier’s departure marks a big change for Seattle Genetics, where he had worked for the past 16 years with CEO Clay Siegall, who’s had to wrestle with his share of setbacks over the past year.

Stéphane Depil

→ French CAR-T developer Cellectis has recruited Stéphane Depil, the former R&D chief of Servier, to lead the company’s clinical development. Depil will serve as senior vice president of R&D and chief medical officer. The new appointment brings Depil back to the industry after a break while he directed the cancer immunotherapy program at the Léon Bérard Cancer Center in Lyon, France. But back when he was at Servier, he oversaw 20 cancer programs, several of which were in clinical trials. Cellectis hopes to benefit from Depil’s track record in the field to move its CAR-T assets into the clinic after a rough start involving a patient death. “Stéphane Depil’s deep medical, academic, and clinical regulatory oncology experience – specifically in R&D for all phases within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and clinical research spaces – will be invaluable as he leads Cellectis’ strategy and promotes awareness of the breakthrough work that we are doing as a leader and innovator in the gene-editing field,” said André Choulika, Cellectis’ CEO, in a statement. Meanwhile, former Boston Consulting Group partner and managing director Elsy Boglioli has been appointed as EVP, strategy and corporate development.

Christopher Twitty just got a promotion at OncoSec, moving up to the chief scientific officer role just a year after joining the biotech as executive director of clinical science. The position has been vacant since Robert Pierce switched to being chief scientific strategist, thereby opening himself up to another job at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The biotech {$ONCS}  has just installed a new CEO to advance its checkpoint drug companion, and the hiring of Twitty reinforced that direction. With his preclinical and clinical immunological background at Tocagen, Twitty will also lead OncoSec’s clinical immune monitoring and biomarker program.

→ DNA sample prep company Purigen Biosystems has tapped NanoString vet Barney Saunders as CEO. Having been in the role for five years, founder Klint Rose will now focus on being CSO and board director. Saunders fits right into Purigen’s profile as he brings three decades of commercial experience at life science companies that offer diagnostic, manufacturing and preparation services. What Purigen offers is a platform for extracting, purifying and concentrating DNA and RNA from biological samples using an electric-field-driven technique called isotachophoresis — a technology that came out of Juan Santiago’s research at Stanford University.

Outpost Medicine has lured Pfizer vet Ian Mills to join as chief medical officer, overseeing global clinical development and regulatory operations for the startup focusing on urologic and gastrointestinal disorders. Mills, who is moving on from a brief clinical development stint at Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Europe, had spent 15 years working a string of research jobs at Pfizer. During that time, he spearheaded the submissions for marketing approval of five products, two of which were for urology indications. Having led more than 20 urology projects spanning Phases I to IV, he is expected to be pivotal in advancing Outpost’s lead product candidate, OP-687, which treats overactive bladder and irritable bowel syndrome. Launched in 2016 with offices in London and Indianapolis, Outpost is a portfolio company of Frazier Healthcare Partners.

Karen Turner

Karen Turner started at Clinipace this week as the new CFO — signaling a new era for the clinical research organization after founder Jeff Williams passed the CEO torch to Jason Monteleone in October. Between INC Research and FairPoint Communications, Turner has had a taste of both the CRO industry and the financial side. Her responsibility will be to oversee the company’s financial reporting including accounting, tax, treasury and investor relations.

Feng Zhang of Calyxt (not be to confused with the Broad investigator credited for CRISPR-Cas9) is leaving the biotech $CLXT after a five-year stint as COO. A brief SEC filing noted that Zhang plans to pursue a career in academics, and CSO Dan Voytas will manage scientific operations.

Michelle Keefe has been appointed President, commercial solutions at INC Research/inVentiv Health $INCR, coming to the contract research and commercialization organization by way of healthcare communications firm Publicis Health, non-for-profit homecare provider The Visiting Nurse Service of New York, and Pfizer. Her predecessor Michael Bell will continue as chairman of the board of directors. “As the commercialization model continues to evolve, there’s significant opportunity to leverage our industry-leading portfolio to serve both large pharma and the untapped small- and mid-sized market,” said Keefe in a statement. “Customers now require flexible, targeted programs that complement traditional outsourced sales representatives with medical science liaisons (MSLs), reimbursement specialists and sophisticated market access and multi-channel capabilities. INC Research/inVentiv Health has the people, perspectives and programs to deliver these new solutions.”

→ Looking to promote and assess its non-opioid post-surgical pain drug, Pacira Pharmaceuticals has named Scott Braunstein and Richard Scranton as COO and CSO, respectively. Both were promoted internally in the Parsippany, NJ-based company $PCRX, and made contributions to Exparel: Braunstein helped steer a collaboration with J&J, while Scranton led scientific communications, market access and health outcomes analytics.’

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Skyhawk Therapeutics Waltham, MA
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