Flagship turns to Novartis HR guru in latest addition; David Grainger saddles up to new position at Centessa while Pfizer's Rod MacKenzie prepares to ride into the sunset
→ In a development that just seemed to add up neatly given Medicxi’s involvement with Centessa, the brainchild of Francesco de Rubertis has named fellow Medicxi co-founder David Grainger as chief innovation officer. Diving in here at Centessa means that Grainger will cede his previous Medicxi responsibilities but he will “continue in a consulting capacity,” as confirmed by our Amber Tong on Tuesday.
“By jumping into a full-time operations role I feel I can have the biggest impact, bringing innovative medicines to patients as quickly as possible, while creating significant value for Centessa shareholders,” Grainger told Endpoints News.
→ Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tweeted out plaudits for Rod MacKenzie when he announced the chief development officer’s retirement on Wednesday. Mackenzie began at Pfizer 35 years ago as a medicinal chemist and has performed a cavalcade of roles ever since, getting the nod as development chief in 2016. This marks the third major retirement in the last year at the drug giant, with Aida Habtezion taking over for CMO Mace Rothenberg, who stepped aside to kick off 2021, and CBO John Young leaving after 34 years. (Pfizer already has named Aamir Malik as Young’s replacement.) And like Young, MacKenzie is set to retire in early 2022.
→ Flagship Pioneering has poached Steven Baert from Novartis, making him chief human capital officer. It’s a huge task in front of him, but 15 years at the Swiss pharma equipped him for it: He will be in charge of piecing together leadership teams for the 6-8 companies that Flagship forms annually. Baert had steadily climbed through the ranks in human resources at Novartis, eventually becoming global head of HR and then chief people officer, a position he had held since 2014.
→ One year wonder: Valeria Fantin has changed Big Pharma allegiances from Gilead to Sanofi, becoming the global head of oncology research at the French multinational after just a year leading oncology research at Gilead. Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson has made several oncology plays recently, scooping up a checkpoint inhibitor from Biond Biologics for $125 million upfront in January and acquiring Kiadis and its NK cell platform in November 2020. Fantin, the ex-CSO at Zai Lab, will be overseeing immuno-oncology and molecular oncology research.
→ Still smarting from the FDA rejection of its hemophilia A gene therapy — with durability questions that continue to linger after presenting more data this summer — BioMarin has turned to former University of California, San Francisco professor Harold Bernstein to be CMO and head of clinical development, and Ganesh Vedantham is now part of JJ Bienaimé’s team as SVP, technical development. During almost four years at Vertex, Bernstein was head of translational medicine and VP of global medicines development. Vedantham spent almost 20 years at Amgen, and in his last role there, he led process development organization at the pharma giant’s manufacturing facility in Singapore.
→ Launched in January with support from Biogen and Genentech, Boston neuro biotech Atalanta Therapeutics has ushered in three new staffers, starting with chief corporate development officer Morgan Molloy, who recently held the same title at Akouos. Molloy, the ex-CCO at Enzyvant, is formerly the head of US commercial for Spark. Joining Molloy is head of neuroscience Stefan McDonough, a 12-year Amgen vet who was recently the head of human genetics at Pfizer. Finally, VP of chemistry and Ionis alum Garth Kinberger strides to the plate for Atalanta after five years at Regulus Therapeutics, closing out his time there as executive director of chemistry, CMC and pharmaceutical development.
→ Theresa Heggie starts anew after only a year as CEO of Freeline Therapeutics, joining Dutch rare disease player ProQR as chief commercial officer. Heggie bid adieu to Freeline in August while president and COO Michael Parini — who just arrived from Vertex in February — stepped in as her successor. Around that time, CMC issues forced a two-year delay on Freeline’s gene therapy trial for hemophilia B candidate FLT180a. Things are getting serious at ProQR with Eli Lilly’s $1 billion partnership for five RNA editing targets in a space that already saw significant Big Pharma traction from Roche’s $3 billion bet with Shape Therapeutics.
→ One of the stars from Constellation Pharmaceuticals is shining elsewhere. CMO Jeffrey Humphrey has landed at Magenta Therapeutics in the same position, filling a vacant space that was once held by John Davis. Before taking over for Adrian Senderowicz as CMO of Constellation, Humphrey was president, CMO and then chief development officer at Kyowa Kirin, and he owns Big Pharma leadership experience at Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb and Bayer. Davis, who was also R&D chief at Magenta, cited family reasons for his May departure.
→ Novavax always likes to keep us busy here at Peer Review, and so it is this week with the selection of Denny Kim as chief safety officer & head of global vaccine safety and the promotions of Raburn Mallory to SVP, head of clinical development and Marco Cacciuttolo to SVP, process and analytical development. Kim heads to Novavax from the office of the chief medical officer at J&J, notably overseeing safety strategies for Janssen’s Covid-19 vaccine, and for a short time he was Horizon’s VP of patient safety and pharmacovigilance. Mallory had been VP of clinical development at AstraZeneca and the global clinical lead for its Covid-19 and influenza vaccines before jumping to Novavax in 2020. And as for Cacciuttolo, the MedImmune vet in cell culture development and manufacturing gets the SVP bump after he too came on board in 2020. The ex-COO at PathoVax, Cacciuttolo was head of manufacturing for Nosocomial Vaccine Corporation.
→ In August, Philly biotech Aro Biotherapeutics welcomed three execs, including COO Scott Greenberg. This time around, Sue Dillon has handed CMO duties to Mittie Doyle after her four years at CSL Behring, where she held the role of VP, global therapeutic area head, R&D, immunology. Along the way, Doyle has been a senior medical director at Alexion, VP of clinical research at Flexion, and before joining CSL Behring, the VP, global development team leader in immunology at Shire. Centyrin-focused Aro bulked up its financing with an $88 million round in January.
→ Ted Yednock is sliding into the role of chief innovation officer at Annexon after eight years as CSO, while Larry Mattheakis is already in place as the new chief scientist for CEO Doug Love. Once the CSO at Prothena, Yednock pivoted to Annexon in 2013 after his time as head of research with Elan Pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, Mattheakis comes to Annexon after spending almost a decade at Protagonist Therapeutics and was SVP, discovery biology and translational research. Earlier, he led clinical development for PI3Kẟ inhibitor XL499 at Exelixis. The drug that’s furthest along in Annexon’s pipeline is ANX005, a monoclonal antibody in Phase II/III for Guillain-Barré syndrome.
→ While we have Prothena in mind from the previous entry, the Irish biotech has created the chief strategy officer post for Tran Nguyen, who will continue as CFO in addition to the new duties, while Brandon Smith gets bumped up to COO. Nguyen had served as COO since 2018 and he’s been with the company since his CFO stint at Somaxon Pharmaceuticals ended in 2013. Smith joined Prothena as CBO in March 2020 and left Amgen in 2012 as head of strategy for the pharma giant’s biosimilars business unit. Prothena’s lead drug NEOD001 (birtamimab) now has a second wind in AL amyloidosis after a resounding thud in a Phase IIb trial in 2018.
→ Let’s stay in Ireland with antibiotic developer Nabriva Therapeutics — headquartered in Dublin — which has handed the CMO job to Big Pharma vet Christine Guico-Pabia. After 10 years at Merck, Guico-Pabia then worked in clinical affairs at Wyeth (now Pfizer) and also led clinical development and medical affairs at Metagenics. Nabriva has run into problems with Contepo as the FDA issued its second CRL for the antibiotic in June 2020.
→ Big Pharma alum Louise Modis has signed on to Mogrify — a startup in England taking aim at Luxturna using its in vivo cellular reprogramming therapies — as CSO. Before the leap to Mogrify, which topped off its Series A to bring its total to $33 million in May, Modis was VP of immunology research as part of her seven years at GlaxoSmithKline. Before that, she spent eight years as a scientist with Boehringer Ingelheim.
→ Grabbing $54 million in a summertime Series B for its own spin on protein degraders called AnDCs (antibody neodegrader conjugates), Sung Joo Lee’s Orum Therapeutics has picked up Olaf Christensen as CMO. After a four-year stay at Bristol Myers in the immuno-oncology clinical development group, Christensen headed to EMD Serono in 2015, and before this opportunity at Orum, he had been the US and Canadian Merck KGaA subsidiary’s head of oncology global clinical development for nearly three years.
→ Robert Lyne has shed the interim label and is now permanent CEO of London VC Arix Bioscience. Lyne originally signed on to Arix in 2017 as general counsel and also spent some time as COO before ascending to interim CEO in April. Elsewhere at Arix, ex-HarbourVest Global Private Equity chairman Sir Michael Bunbury has been added to the board as senior independent director, and on Oct. 15, former University of Oxford CFO Giles Kerr makes his exit from the board.
→ Mike Weinstein is locked in as CFO of Dallas-area liquid biopsy player Caris Life Sciences, which hauled in a gargantuan $830 million megaround this spring. Weinstein left JP Morgan after 26 years in 2018, becoming SVP, strategy and a member of the executive committee at Medtronic. The influx of cash is nothing new at Caris: Since 2018, total financing has hit the $1.3 billion mark.
→ Several months removed from its Series C round, Swiss ophthalmic biotech Oculis has filled a key position on its leadership roster with Joanne Chang as CMO and head of portfolio management, concluding a run at Novartis that began in 2008. Chang had spent the last three years leading global medical affairs for the Big Pharma’s ophthalmology portfolio. Oculis is using its SNP (solubilizing nanoparticles) technology on lead candidate OCS-01, which is being developed as a topical alternative for eye injectables.
→ New Jersey-based biosimulation player Certara has enlisted Drayton Virkler for the newly created CCO position. Virkler spent the last decade at IQVIA, where he served as VP and global head of sales. He has also held leadership roles at GSK and Talecris Plasma Resources.
→ GSK partner Adrestia Therapeutics, a “synthetic viability” biotech under the direction of CEO Steve Jackson, has tapped Tom Heightman as chief R&D officer. Heightman, a GSK vet in his own right, just had a two-year run as VP, global head oncology chemistry at AstraZeneca before shifting gears at Adrestia, which raised a Series A in December 2020 co-led by GSK and Ahren Innovation Capital.
→ Is there a Galapagos purge in the works after the litany of fails and Onno van de Stolpe’s retirement? Milan-based autoimmune disease biotech Enthera Pharmaceuticals has put out the welcome mat for Antonio Speziale, who has been named CMO and was recently the translational medicine leader for Galapagos. Speziale wrapped up his six-year tenure at Novartis in 2019 as global program clinical head for autoimmunity and skeletal diseases.
→ Genentech respiratory partner Pieris Pharmaceuticals has promoted Thomas Bures to CFO and Ahmed Mousa to CBO. Bures completed a two-year run at Genocea as VP, corporate controller in 2017 to take the VP of finance post at Pieris. Mousa, who began his time at Pieris in 2016 as senior counsel, will remain general counsel in addition to his CBO duties. In August, Pieris elevated Shane Olwill to development officer and appointed Tim Demuth as its CMO.
→ Sam Backenroth has taken over as CFO at Israeli-based VBL Therapeutics. Most recently, Backenroth held the same position at NeuBase Therapeutics and Ohr Pharmaceutical. Back in August, VBL announced that they were restarting their Phase III trial of VB-111, an anti-cancer gene therapy, after the study had been paused for FDA evaluation.
→ Daniel Clark has stepped in as interim CFO at Kiromic BioPharma. Clark replaces Tony Tontat, who held the position since October 2019 and resigned last month. Clark is no stranger to financial leadership at Kiromic — he has served as both VP of finance operations and corporate controller. Prior to joining Kiromic in February 2020, he worked at several firms, including The Siegfried Group and FTI Consulting.
→ Recently acquired by a group led by Goldman Sachs for $8.5 billion as a standout illustration of 2021’s CRO mania, Parexel has recruited Stephen Pyke as EVP, clinical data and digital services. Pyke held several roles at GSK, finishing up his 10-year run there as SVP & development head, digital data & analytics.
→ When we last saw Third Rock’s MOMA Therapeutics here, the molecular machine biotech had named Semi Trotto as chief people and experience officer. More execs follow this week with Hans Bitter and Nazareth Martinez Shedden getting the call at MOMA as SVP and head, data science and VP, strategic finance, respectively. Bitter, who’s recently been SVP of data sciences and chief data officer for oncology at bluebird bio, has also taken on leadership roles at the Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research (global head of oncology bioinformatics) and Roche (deputy global head of bioinformatics and statistics). Meanwhile, Shedden led finance in the neuroscience, gastrointestinal and oncology business units at Takeda, where she spent 15 years overall.
→ Gene therapy-focused Renovacor is picking up another exec with the appointment of Kumar Dhanasekharan as SVP of technical operations. Dhanasekharan joins the Philadelphia-based company from SwanBio Therapeutics, where he served as VP of technical operations. Prior to that role, Dhanasekharan was with Amicus Therapeutics, Cook Pharmica, Lonza and Sanofi Genzyme.
→ She feels the need, the need for Speed: Israeli presbyopia biotech Orasis Pharmaceuticals, which reeled in a $30 million Series C round last September, has revved up the engine with Julie Speed as its head of strategy and marketing. A 15-year Alcon vet, Speed had held the chief commercial officer post at Eyevance Pharmaceuticals since February 2020 before motoring into Orasis. From 2018-20, she was senior director of marketing, Americas for J&J Vision Surgical.
→ TCR biotech TScan Therapeutics, the Harvard spinout which went public over the summer with a nine-figure IPO, has appointed Heather Savelle as VP, investor relations. Savelle departs from Argot Partners, where she served as managing director. Before joining Argot, she was SVP at MacDougall Biomedical Communications.
→ San Diego-based aTyr Pharma has installed Robert Ashworth as VP of regulatory affairs. Ashworth, who owned the same title the last three years at OncoSec, has bounced around a bit as a regulatory exec since his six-year tenure at Forest Labs, serving as a VP at such companies as Otsuka, NPS Pharma and Advaxis.
→ Perceptive‘s LianBio filed for the standard $100 million IPO last week, and the US/China upstart has added Michael Humphries to the team this week as chief scientific advisor. Before joining LianBio, Humphries served as CMO and head of development strategy at Shanghai-based Cellular BioMedicine Group (CBMG). Prior to that, he was CSO at Novartis Development China.
→ Heat Biologics has welcomed aboard Paul Tebbey as SVP of product development and portfolio strategy. Tebbey comes with experience from his times at AbbVie, Baxter, Centocor/Johnson & Johnson and Wyeth/Pfizer.
→ Recro Pharma has tapped Tim Bourque as VP and head of operations for Recro San Diego. Bourque joins the PA-based company from Ajinomoto Bio-Pharma Services. Prior to that, Bourque had stints at Lonza, Althea, Shire Human Genetic Therapies and Ipsen.
→ Illumina Ventures-backed Rebus Biosystems has named Danilo Tait as VP commercial operations, EMEA. Tait formerly served as business development manager, NGS/genomics at PerkinElmer and has also held positions at Caliper Life Sciences, MGI and Advanced Analytical.
→ Jeff Jonas has been named chairman of the board at Swiss based neuro startup Noema Pharma, which took psychiatry castoffs from Roche and collected $59 million in a Series A in December 2020. Jonas, who was CEO at Sage until Barry Greene took over, is now the biotech’s chief innovation officer.
→ One of the biotechs honored in the 2021 edition of the Endpoints 11, Rick Modi’s folks at Affinia have a spot on the board of directors for Carole Faig. She recently retired from Ernst & Young’s healthcare business after 25 years with the company.
→ Kevin Fitzgerald has joined the board of directors at Ovid, reeling from a Phase III Angelman syndrome bust that prompted a leadership makeover in July. Fitzgerald currently serves as CSO and head of research at Alnylam, where he has been a key member of the drug development team since 2005.
→ London-based microbial immunotherapy player Prokarium has made Thomas Eldered chairman of the board as his predecessor, Steve Chatfield, will continue as a board member. Donning an ever-present bow tie, Eldered co-founded and was the longtime CEO at Recipharm, a job that now belongs to ex-Lonza chief executive Marc Funk.
→ Gerd Zettlmeissl has a new gig as chairman of the board at MinervaX, a Danish biotech backed by Novo and Sanofi Ventures that’s working on a Group B streptococcus vaccine to compete with Pfizer. Zettlmeissl was CEO of Valneva (then known as Intercell) from 2001 until his resignation in 2011.
→ Raleigh, NC-based 9 Meters Biopharma has elected Samantha Ventimiglia to the board of directors. Ventimiglia, the SVP, US public affairs for Vertex, was a government affairs director at Astellas before her move to Vertex in 2010.
→ NextCure is adding some new faces to its board of directors with the appointments of Ellen Feigal and Anne Borgman. Feigal currently serves as partner and head of the biologics practice at NDA Partners and sits on the board of Xencor. Previously, Feigal was executive medical director at Amgen. Meanwhile, Borgman is the current VP and global therapeutic area lead, hematology-oncology at Jazz Pharmaceuticals. Prior to those stints, Borgman was with Exelixis, Hana Biosciences (now Talon Therapeutics), KaloBios Pharmaceuticals and Abbott Pharmaceuticals.
→ Adjuvant Capital-backed synbio player Codagenix out in Long Island has appointed Lori Rudolph-Owen and Jill Howe to the board of directors. Since 2018, Rudolph-Owen has been chief development officer at Goldfinch Bio, while Howe appeared in Peer Review a few months ago when she took the CFO job at DTx Pharma.
→ The aforementioned Adrian Senderowicz is stepping onto the board of directors at Step Pharma. Prior to his CMO role at Constellation, Senderowicz was CMO at Cerulean Pharma and had served at Sanofi Oncology, Tokai Pharmaceuticals and AstraZeneca.
→ Alan Ashworth has secured a seat on the board of directors at CytomX. Ashworth, the president of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco, has been with the school since 2015.
→ Roswell Biotechnologies has appointed Mike Aicher as chairman of its board. Aicher was president and founder of Alveo Technologies and was co-founder and CEO of the National Genetics Institute. Additionally, Aicher brings experience from his times at Genetic Signatures and CytoBay.