Peer Review

Director of diversity and inclusion arrives at MassBio; Jerome Jabbour takes the helm at Matinas; Ex-Eli Lilly CFO becomes president of PBM business

Edie Stringfellow

→ In a first, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council has brought on Edie Stringfellow as its director of diversity and inclusion, bolstering its initiative to improve inclusion and diversity in the life sciences industry. Her main mandate is to “serve as a resource and liaise” with the community, helping members change mindsets through education, outreach and advocacy. Coming from the Cambridge biotech hub, the move was widely applauded. “MassBio is always at the forefront of change, and Edie is not afraid to have tough conversations and to educate our members and the industry at large that diversity and inclusion is not just the right thing to do, but is a good business decision,” said MassBio CEO Robert Coughlin in a statement.

→ Having steered Matinas BioPharma $MTNB through a meeting with the FDA to salvage its anti-fungal, Roelof Rongen has decided it’s time his co-founder Jerome Jabbour take over as CEO. Like Rongen, Jabbour has a background in pharma business development. He orchestrated the micro-cap’s acquisition of Aquarius Biotechnologies, bringing in the cochleate lipid-crystal delivery tech platform that MAT2203 — the drug Matinas is hustling to a Phase II — is developed on. Having served as president since 2016, Jabbour said he has “a very clear vision” for the both the lead drug and other potential new therapies to come out of partnerships. Rongen is also stepping down from the board.

Søren Tulstrup

→ After several months of searching, Sweden’s Hansa Medical has found its perfect leader in Søren Tulstrup, who takes over from board chairman Ulf Wiinberg. Wiinberg, a former chief of Lundbeck, has been interim CEO since the sudden death of Göran Arvidson in November. Tulstrup is no stranger to the top job, having served as CEO of Vifor Pharma and Santaris Pharma before focusing on advisory roles. The board also liked that he’s trotted the globe managing rare disease and kidney disease products for the likes of Novartis, Merck and Shire. Hansa is currently testing its own immunoglobulin-inhibiting enzyme for kidney transplant rejection — with Phase II data published this week — among a slate of other indications.

Leila Alland is joining Affimed’s $AFMD quest for natural killer and T cell engager programs as its CMO after a stint at Tarveda Therapeutics. Heidelberg, Germany-based Affimed has a pipeline of bispecific antibodies hitting different cancer targets, but Alland’s first focus will likely be AFM13, a CD30 drug in Phase I and II trials — as a monotherapy and in combos — for Hodgkin lymphoma. Alland has been involved in early-stage development for pretty much her entire biopharma career, having served in clinical roles at AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis.

→ In a nod to Michael Skynner’s business development contributions, Bicycle Therapeutics has promoted the VP of operations and discovery to COO. The biotech, headquartered in Cambridge, UK with offices in Boston, MA, recently initiated the first ever clinical study of one of its unique drug conjugates since it was founded in 2009. That trial, conducted in collaboration with Cancer UK, is among the strategic alliances that Skynner guided. Before joining Bicycle in 2016, Skynner — who co-founded a biotech earlier in his career — led research and discovery efforts at Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.

Jennifer Schranz

→ With Phase III data and regulatory filing in sight for lefamulin, Nabriva Therapeutics $NBRV has tapped former Shire exec Jennifer Schranz to run the next stretch of its clinical development. As CMO, Schranz will contribute to the anti-infective company’s business strategies in addition to overseeing medical affairs. Top-line oral data of lefamulin for community-acquired bacterial pneumonia is expected any time now; if this second PhIII looks anything like the first, Schranz’s experience in the regulatory submission and approval process will come into use. In her own words: “This is a time of significant opportunity and a potential inflection point for Nabriva and I look forward to partnering with its experienced management team to advance the first truly new class of anti-infectives for intravenous and oral use in humans in nearly 20 years.”

Avadel’s CCO $AVDL Gregory Divis has a new role. The Dublin-based specialty pharma bumped Divis up to EVP and COO of the company, which markets several drugs targeted at hospital settings. A former CEO of women’s health company Lumara Health who oversaw its sale to AMAG Pharma, Divis has been active in Avadel’s supply chain, business development and commercial activities. All of that will continue as he helps launch Noctiva, a nocturia drug Avadel licensed from Serenity Pharma after Allergan dropped its commercialization rights.

Sienna Biopharmaceuticals $SNNA has recruited Caroline Van Hove as its first chief commercial officer. Her recent role in international strategy marketing at Botox-maker Allergan likely prepared her for the portfolio of medical dermatology and aesthetics products that she’s now in charge of. Joining her in the C-suite will be John Smither, a one-time Sienna CFO that has been re-hired to replace Richard Peterson. An Amgen vet, Smither has been working as a consultant since leaving the Westlake Village, CA biotech last year.

→ Just a few months after retiring from Eli Lilly, Derica Rice has signed on to run CVS Health’s pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) business, Caremark — the second noted pharma exec to move into the PBM world in two weeks. (Ex-GSK chief Andrew Witty made waves last week jumping to UnitedHealth‘s Optum division.) Rice’s 27-year tenure at the Indianapolis drugmaker culminated in a decade as CFO and featured a few months as interim CEO. Now on the other end of the negotiating table, he is tasked with strategy, new business development and client relationship management on top of day-to-day oversight. He succeeds Jonathan Roberts, who was promoted from Caremark’s president to CVS Health’s COO.

Origenis, a German biotech focused on the central nervous system, has hired Peter Seufer-Wasserthal to scout partnerships for a range of applications of its tech platform. While its own clinical programs tackle neurodegeneration, the company is confident that its capacity for discovering and designing brain-penetrating small molecule drugs can lead to promising non-CNS and ophthalmological assets. That will all fall under the purview of the new chief business officer, who had plenty of practice finding deals for a diverse pipeline at Intrexon. His appointment comes as Origenis looks to build a Series A syndicate to back an IND.

→ Doubling down on genomics, J. Craig Venter has wooed a longtime exec from family history provider Ancestry to become chief technology officer of his anti-aging startup Human Longevity. Scott Sorensen spent 16 years at Ancestry, helping transform the company from a family history business into a genomics business. Venter likes the technology architecture he built there, and is trusting him to work the same magic for HLI’s customer interfaces and database.

Sorrento Therapeutics $SRNE has appointed investment banker Jiong Shao as CFO, putting weight behind its expressed intent to seek dual listing in Nasdaq and the Hong Kong exchange this year. Having spent time in big-name banks in New York and Hong Kong, Jiong’s former client list boasts of Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Baidu. 2018 has been an eventful year for Sorrento, which just nabbed an FDA approval for non-opioid pain patch ZTlido, with estimated peak sales of over $1 billion. With a new exec who believes that its shares are “currently substantially under-valued,” it sounds like the San Diego company is just beginning.

Shire’s general manager in China, Freeman Cong, is leaving the operation to spend more time with family in the US. Formerly the general manager of Baxalta’s China division, Cong assumed the Shire post after the rare disease giant acquired the hemophilia company. Sipu Fang — Shire’s point person in Asia — will take over his duties ad interim.

→ Personalized cancer immunotherapy player Gritstone Oncology has poached Sarepta’s VP of technical operations, Jayant Aphale, to run its manufacturing plant in Pleasanton, CA. Process development and clinical material manufacturing is a key part of personalized neoantigen R&D, and Aphale, a seasoned professional who’s led a number of therapies from vaccines to oligonucleotides, seems just the person to tap. Gritstone, which counts GV and Lilly Asia Ventures among its backers, is looking to enter the clinic mid-2018.

Mary Mattes’ latest move in CRO-land has taken her to Synteract, where she is now SVP of biometrics and drug safety. Continuing the work she did at PRA and Accelovance, she heads a team advising clients on data management, biostatistics and safety across stages of clinical development. Additionally, she is tasked with selecting technology enhancements for the company itself.

Jennifer Zachary is the new general counsel at Merck $MRK, succeeding Michael Holston, who’s set to become chief lawyer at General Electrics. A former FDA staffer, Zachary has been advising health care manufacturers as a law firm partner. At the pharma giant, her responsibility will span global legal, security and aviation, and environmental, health and safety organizations.

AMPAC Fine Chemicals, a Rancho Cordova, CA-based manufacturer of active pharmaceutical ingredients and intermediates, has appointed Lee Gauthier to replace retiring VP of operations Joseph Campbell.

→ Former Kite BD exec Helen Kim and Kite’s current CMO David Chang are reuniting at Dallas-based cancer biotech Peloton Therapeutics, where they are the two latest members of the board of directors.

→ Dementia research Sharon Cohen has joined ProMIS Neurosciences’ scientific advisory board, helping guide its lead therapy for Alzheimer’s.

Translate Bio CEO Ronald Renaud is lending his leadership to Kyn Therapeutics by becoming its new board chairman. The Atlas-backed, Boston-based upstart works on the nascent field of immunometabolism. The biotech has also welcomed Harvard professor Francisco Quintana to its scientific advisory board.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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