Peer Review

E-Scape Bio installs permanent CEO Julie Anne Smith; Father passes reins to son at Allegro Ophthalmics

→ A year after E-Scape Bio leapt out of stealth mode with some strong backing, the San Francisco upstart is ready to put its work in neurodegeneration to a clinical test. Leading that charge will be Julie Anne Smith, who’s been appointed to succeed Orbimed partner Leon Chen as CEO. A two-time chief executive and biotech veteran, Smith brings experience in small molecule therapies and lysosomal storage disorders from her recent stints at Nuredis and Raptor Pharma. That resume checks all the right boxes for E-Scape: While the company launched with a heavy focus on a genetic approach to tackling Alzheimer’s, it has since put that project on the backburner in favor of an S1P5 program from AbbVie, which is slated for the clinic in 2019.

→ After building Allegro Ophthalmics from scratch over the past seven years, Hampar Karageozian decided it’s time president and CMO Vicken Karageozian — also his son — steps up for the CEO role. Karageozian Sr. will move to the executive chairman position, responsible for strategy with an eye on discovery and R&D, while the new CEO preps the company for Phase III trials of lead drug risuteganib in diabetic macular edema. An ophthalmic surgeon by training, Vicken Karageozian had previously co-founded two ophthalmology biotechs based on therapeutics he co-invented.

→ Over the last 11 years, Edward Hu has been COO, CFO and chief investment officer at WuXi AppTec. Now he’s been named co-CEO, with a special responsibility for small molecule drug discovery, development, manufacturing services, drug and medical device testing services, plus some. He’s retaining his CFO responsibilities for now until a replacement is selected. And Hu will continue to report to company founder Ge Li, who’s been chiefly responsible for the rapid growth of the big China-based company.

→ Venture capitalist James Kuo sees potential in OncoTracker’s biomarker testing business — so much so that he left his 11-year role as managing director of Athena Bioventures to pursue the CEO job there. “While the initial focus will be on building a profitable business in the rapidly growing multiple myeloma market, we intend to serve a broader cancer population by integrating novel immune therapies with companion diagnostics,” he said of the company. Borrowing from his stints at Synthetic Biologics and Pfizer, he plans to expand the West Hollywood, CA company through licensing deals like the one it had with Juno Therapeutics.

→ Gaithersburg, MD-based Sensei Biotherapeutics has named Ildiko Csiki as its chief medical officer. Csiki most recently worked as vice president of immuno-oncology clinical development at Inovio Pharmaceuticals. Earlier she worked as clinical development lead for Merck‘s Keytruda program. Reporting to John Celebi — president and CEO since May — her first project will involve moving forward the Phase I cancer vaccine SNS-301.

→ Bone healing specialist Kuros Biosciences has appointed Pascal Longlade to replace retired CMO Virginia Jamieson. Working out of the Swiss biotech’s Netherlands site, Longlade inherits a pipeline of bone graft substitute products and surgery sealants. He has moved between pharma, biotech and medical device companies, most recently overseeing medical and regulatory affairs for France’s D&A Pharma.

→ Achillion $ACHN is on a hiring spree under new CEO Joseph Truitt. Just a week after bringing Leerink banker Anthony Gibney on as chief business officer, the biotech has scooped Steven Zelenkofske from uniQure to be its chief medical officer. Switching his focus from gene therapies to complement inhibitors for rare diseases, Zelenkofske will lead a clinical development team alongside new VPs Laura Barrow and Marc Uknis. His regulatory experience will be key as Achillion hustles along its Phase II programs and prepare for registrational trials, Truitt said.

Randall Sze has been promoted to CFO at Athenex, taking over the finance and accounting department while continuing to spearhead corporate development activities. While Sze only joined the company late last year, he’s known CEO Johnson Lau and the management team since steering Athenex’s IPO $ATNX as the lead execution banker.

Michael Garone has resigned from Immunomedics $IMMU after a two-year CFO run that featured a brief gig as interim CEO. Chief business officer Usama Malik will step in to shoulder the financial duties, while controller William Fricker has been named principal accounting officer. The company emphasized that his departure “is not the result of any disagreement with the company,” its leadership or operations, and noted that Garone will stay on as VP of finance for transition until May 2019, exactly one year after Immunomedics submitted a BLA for its antibody-drug conjugate.

→ San Diego-based Cidara Therapeutics $CDTX has lost CFO Matthew Onaitis to medical device company Mainstay Medical. Jeffrey Stein, the CEO, and Brady Johnson, director of finance and controller, are splitting up his responsibilities in the interim.

Biogen vet Anne Marie de Jonge Schuermans is jumping to Sobi to head its technical operations — a new union of the manufacturing, biological development & supply chain and environment & safety units. The Swedish rare disease company likes her skills in “putting processes and systems in place, and of driving transformation in cross-functional and cross-cultural settings.” She starts in October.

→ As Simon Bedson retires from the international commercial operations at Vertex $VRTX, the company has recruited Ludovic Fenaux from Bristol-Myers Squibb to take his place in its London headquarters. Fenaux, who’s also worked at AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, joins Vertex amid some tough fights it’s having with single European payers over covering its cystic fibrosis drugs.

Aerie Pharmaceuticals $AERI has tapped Jeffrey White to join its R&D team as director, toxicology and pharmacokinetics. He joins from a similar position at Alcon, the eye care business Novartis is looking to spin out.

→ As ApoGen Biotechnologies goes public with its expanded Series A — with $11 million from the corporate venture arms of Merck KGaA, AbbVie, Eli Lilly, J&J and WuXi AppTec — it’s also announcing the appointment of two new execs. Stephen Gwaltney, formerly of Global Blood Therapeutics and Takeda, is the new VP of chemistry; Peter de Vries joins from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to take on the senior director of biology position. ApoGen is developing therapeutics to tackle resistance to cancer drugs.

→ CEO Percival Barretto-Ko is still building out his exec team at Astellas, with two new promotions this week. Rodrigo Fernandez, previously executive director of Astellas’ international business, is now VP, Latin America, playing a supervisory role across all countries in the region. Shontelle Dodson has been tapped SVP, health systems, tasked with a slate of responsibilities across pricing and market access.


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