EpimAb nabs Bin Peng from NIBR; Jeffrey Chodakewitz exits Vertex; Christiana Stamoulis is president at Unum
→ Christiana Stamoulis is getting busier at Unum Therapeutics as she adds the role of president to her CFO and head of corporate development duties. She will now be responsible for many of the immunotherapy company’s functions, including corporate strategy, legal, investor relations and communications. A former investment banker and Vertex exec, Stamoulis was credited for heading Unum’s $65 million series B and its partnership with Seattle Genetics.
→ China upstart EpimAb Biotherapeutics has wooed in a top researcher from Novartis as its first chief medical officer. Bin Peng, who had been global chief of oncology translational medicine at NIBR’s Shanghai group, is jumping to the startup, which grabbed a $25 million launch round last April and is allied with noted UK antibody design shop Kymab. They have a lead drug — EMB01 — now headed into the clinic. He’s joining a global team of developers assembled by CEO Chengbin Wu, a Harvard postdoc who had worked at Abbott before being named CSO at Shanghai CP Guojian Pharmaceutical. Peng is also among a long lineup of execs inside Novartis who are launching new chapters of their careers in biotech. “Dr. Peng’s successful global leadership and expertise will be extremely beneficial to EpimAb’s portfolio of preclinical candidates, which have been developed within just two years using our proprietary bispecific antibody platform FIT-Ig,” says the CEO.
→ Jeffrey Chodakewitz is hitting the exit doors. Just days after the launch of Vertex’s big Phase III study of its lead cystic fibrosis triple therapy, the big biotech is bidding farewell to its high profile chief medical officer. The CMO has been with Vertex for four years, jumping ship from pharma giant Merck, where he held a top R&D position. Chodakewitz is staying on for a period as an adviser. He’s being replaced by Reshma Kewalramani, who’s been holding the title for SVP of clinical development and medical affairs at Vertex. There’s no immediate word for Chodakewitz’s next steps — only the usual announcement that he’s retiring, which could mean anything — who with his experience would find it easy to take the helm of one of the biotech startups being launched.
→ Oxford BioTherapeutics, a player at the intersection of immuno-oncology and antibody-drug conjugates, has recruited Abderrahim Fandi as its first CMO. The newly created position reflects OBT’s move to advance its lead ADC therapy, MEN1309, in the US in parallel with clinical testing in Europe. This also represents a shift for Fandi, who spent time at AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers, Novartis and ultimately Celgene. He will now oversee the development of OBT’s preclinical assets, some of which Boehringer Ingelheim is partnered on.
→ As CEO William Mann heads out the door, the Helsinn Group has tapped Paul Rittman as his successor at Helsinn Therapeutics, the Swiss company’s US subsidiary. A Teva vet, Rittman now joins an exodus of senior executives from the struggling generics giant. His most recent role focused on oncology, fitting well with the cancer care business of his new employer. “Given the focus of Helsinn Therapeutics on both oncology therapeutics and supportive care, one of my first priorities will be to further expand the commercial presence of Helsinn in the US,” Rittman said in a statement.
→ Antibiotic developer Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals $TTPH has promoted its chief commercial officer Larry Edwards to the COO position, expanding his mandate in operations beyond pre-commercialization activities. When he joined the in 2015, Edwards had built up some experience with pre- and post-launch marketing at Cubist Pharma and Merck. The Watertown, MA-based biotech remains confident in its lead drug eravacycline for complicated intra-abdominal infections, even as it kept running into the wall in complicated urinary tract infections trials.
→ As Blade Therapeutics readies its entrance into the clinic in a few months, it is counting on Ryan Maynard to provide financial leadership from here on out. Maynard was recruited from fellow South San Francisco biotech Rigel Pharmaceuticals, where he helped raise over $700 million as CFO. Outside of finance and accounting, his new position also involves investor and public relations — communicating about Blade’s intracellular cysteine protease inhibitor which holds potential for a number of fibrosis indications.
→ Continuing a trek on biotech land, Mark Gergen has landed a new gig as CBO and CFO of Poseida Therapeutics. Between Halozyme, Mirati and Amylin (now part of Bristol Myers), Gergen has juggled financial, business and operation roles. San Diego-based Poseida is developing autologous T cell and NK cell therapies.
→ GigaGen is stepping up its game in immune dysregulation by appointing a senior director of technology, Jan Fredrik, to create next-gen sequencing devices to analyze immune systems and offer insight for the antibody therapeutics it’s developing. The South San Francisco-based upstart’s claim to fame is its recombinant intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) for patients with immune deficiency, but its new target is to apply the tech in immuno-oncology. Simons, who jumps from a senior R&D position at DNA sequencing company Quantapore, has spent much of his career working with sequencing technologies in multiple fields.
→ Lyon, France-based Enyo Pharma has brought on Raphaël Darteil as a VP of non-clinical development and product profiling to help optimize development plans. The hope is that as the biotech explores NASH as a second indication for its FXR agonist EYP001, Darteil can guide the path with his NASH expertise. The drug’s PhIb trial among chronic HBV infected patients doesn’t read out until Q2, but the execs say it’s proven to be safe enough to start planning two PhIIa studies.
→ As Dart Neuroscience closed its doors permanently, Kim Albizati — senior director of chemistry, manufacturing and controls — has found his next opportunity at Molecular Assemblies. As VP of chemistry and biochemistry, Albizati will lead a team of scientists striving to perfect DNA synthesis using Molecular Assemblies’ enzymatic technology. The application ranges from health care and chemicals to electronics and biofuels. Also a lecturer at UC San Diego, Albizati was an R&D director at Pfizer for 12 years.
→ Degenerative disease specialist BioTime has created a new position called SVP of clinical and medical affairs, and Gary Hogge is filling it. Hogge’s resume consists of a slate of medical affairs and clinical development roles, the most recent being Questcor Pharma (later acquired by Mallinckrodt). Add those to the biomedical consulting practice he runs on the side, and BioTime execs are convinced that he can help lead their cell replacement and delivery platforms into new clinical programs.
→ Following a short family leave, Gilead’s James Meyers has decided to retire from his position of EVP, commercial operations entirely. While Meyers had been in the role for less than two years, his career at Gilead dates back to 1996 when he first joined as a regional sales director. He will stay with the Foster City, CA company as an adviser while it searches for his successor.
→ Federico Pollano is the new SVP of business development at Rentschler Biopharma, a German developer and manufacturer of biologics, succeeding Christoph Winterhalter. A longtime biopharma exec who cut his teeth at Glaxo Wellcome, Pollano combined his previous experience to establish a CDMO business in his recent job at Polpharma Biologics.
→ Amgen retiree William Ashton has taken a board seat at Henderson, NV-based Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, which is looking hard at the commercial potential of its late-stage assets snagged in deals. At Amgen, Ashton had headed sales and business efforts, liaising with health systems, private payers and distribution channels, among others.
→ Acceleron co-founder and Keros Pharma CEO Jasbir Seehra has joined the board of Eloxx Pharmaceuticals to offer advice on its rare disease pipeline of read-through drug candidates designed to treat premature stop codon diseases.